Like mother, like daughter

I had plans to do ‘stuff’ on the day my mother’s DNA results came through. Up at 6:30 am, I made myself a coffee, then fired up the laptop to read the news and check emails before getting started.  Staring at me from my inbox was an email from AncestryDNA; ‘It’s ready, Leanne!! Cancel your plans and absorb yourself in DNA-land for the next few hours instead!’

OK, so the email didn’t actually say that. Nevertheless, absorb myself is exactly what I started to do.

I felt bad, then guilty. But right on the verge of getting up and seizing the day, team-weather came to the rescue with an absolute downpour of rain and gusty winds.  Taking this as an absolute sign to abandon all plans, my Sunday morning suddenly turned around.

Thanks, team-weather!  Great to know you’re on my side.

So, what did the ethnicity results show?

Mother-daughter comparison. My mother's results are on the left.
Mother-daughter comparison. My mother’s results are on the left. % breakdown by region included.

1. We both have a bunch of Great Britain, and similar amounts of Ireland.

Our family tree already tells us this, but it’s pretty neat seeing it visually as well.  Plus, as we all inherit 50% of our DNA from each parent, the totals support that my father also has ancestors from Great Britain (which includes Scotland) and Ireland. No surprises there – it’s in his family tree, too.

Even though Dad hasn’t been tested, the fact that I show 80% for Great Britain + Ireland (combined) means that this must be in his ethnicity as well.  I couldn’t have inherited all of this from just my mother’s side – the numbers (for Great Britain in particular) are too large for that to be the case.

2. Her Scandinavian is slightly higher than mine.

The other thing about DNA inheritance is that it ‘dilutes’ with each new generation.  My mother has more of our ancestors’ DNA than I do.  As Mum’s great-great grandparents were from Denmark, and – as far as I am aware – there are no Scandinavian ancestors on my father’s side, it makes sense that I have less in this area.

3. I have higher amounts for Europe West and Iberian Peninsula.

This one is a bit exciting.  Even though ethnicity sampling is not an exact science, what this might tell me is that I inherited more DNA in these regions from my father’s side (especially given that Mum’s is < 1%, which is too small to count, really). We’re not aware of any German, French or Spanish ancestry, but having small amounts from these areas is interesting (and intriguing). I would love to get Dad tested to see how much he has!


The other interesting thing about all of this is that if I were to ask my brother or sister to take a test, their ethnicity results would be slightly different again.  While we receive 50% from each parent, their results may show (for example) more Scandinavia, more Europe West…or in fact no amounts from these regions at all! It’s all a bit random in terms of which DNA ‘bits’ (segments) we inherit from our ancestors, but I’d expect them to also have Great Britain given that it’s so high for both my mother and I. They may just show different percentages.

Having my mother’s DNA results has already been fantastic in narrowing down which line a match may come from.  In my list of ‘4th cousin or closer’ matches, I currently have 53 people.  Until recently, I could filter my matches and view only those with:

  • Hints (meaning that the match and I have a common ancestor in our family trees),
  • New (those I haven’t viewed yet) or
  • Starred (you can ‘star’ matches to make them easier to come back to later).

But with her results now processed, I have an extra filter!


Using the Mother filter reduces the list to include only those who share DNA with both of us. Doing so brings my ‘4th cousin or closer’ matches from 53 down to 28. Which also means that the remaining 25 are from my father’s side.  When you’re looking at family trees to try and figure who a common relative may be, this is a huge help.

And remember the Bannister cousins?  Mum also shares DNA with all of them too. So, while I already had my results to help verify a family connection, the fact that she also matches them makes it that much stronger.

But perhaps the best bit so far, is that because Mum has more of our ancestors’ DNA than I do, she has matched with people in the AncestryDNA database that I don’t.  Which has opened a heap of new leads to follow, and potential cousins to connect with.

Can you see now why my Sunday morning got awesome really quickly?!

I may not have made any a lot of progress on my plans for ‘stuff’ that day, but there’s always tomorrow, right?

I wonder if there’s such a thing as a procrastination gene…

The 13-year-old convict

Johanna Finlay was only nine years old when her family received the dreaded news; her brother, Archibald, had been caught pick-pocketing in the streets of Glasgow. Barely a teenager, the future for this fair-haired, blue-eyed Scottish lad had taken a dramatic, uncertain turn. Sentenced to transportation for 14 years for his crime, Archie no doubt thought he would never see his family again. The year was 1828, and his term was lengthy.

We’ll never know if Archie was able to farewell his entire family, or receive one final hug from little sister Johanna before leaving them behind, but it would be nice to think so. Or perhaps nicer still to include a scenario where the Finlays all stood on the docks with ‘their Archie’ – not saying goodbye, but rather, until we meet again. As the eldest son, he would no doubt be missed.

It’s hard to imagine how a boy of only 13 would have felt or even coped with being taken away from his home at such a young age. No doubt apprehensive, and likely a little frightened. Picking pockets as a ‘skill’ took a fair dose of courage and determination, so perhaps Archie also clung onto this as he made his way into an unknown future.

Archie turned 14 on the voyage from Glasgow to England, where he was received on the ‘floating prison’ Retribution at Woolwich. After being washed, inspected and issued with clothing and other ‘essentials’ including a blanket and eating utensils, he was transferred to the Euryalus – a convict hulk specifically for boys. The youngest to take up residence on this particular hulk was recorded as being aged only nine. Difficult to comprehend, but a harsh reality of the time. Like Archie, many of these boys were also awaiting transportation to Australia for their crimes.

Convict Hulk Euryalus
Model of the ship Euryalus from

Moored at Chatham, conditions on the Euryalus were less than ideal and often reported as being a cause for concern. Regardless, it remained Archie’s new ‘home’ for the next two years. His days would have likely been spent labouring on shore in a work gang for 10-12 hours a day; possibly stone collecting, cleaning the river, or general dockyard work.

With many boys from the Euryalus being described as leaving the hulk ‘more hardened than they arrived’, it’s easy to speculate that Archie may have been included among these, and perhaps that this was also how he came about the scars on his forehead that would later appear on convict records.

Description of Archibald Finlay from his Convict Indent Record; ship Lady Harewood (Ancestry)
Description of Archibald Finlay from his Convict Indent Record; ship Lady Harewood (Ancestry)

After almost three years since his conviction, Archibald Finlay finally arrived in Sydney Cove, New South Wales on 4 March 1831. Disembarking the ship Lady Harewood and promptly marched toward Hyde Park Barracks to commence the next stage of his convict assignment, he no doubt took in the starting differences in his surroundings. He was indeed a long way from home.

Just two months’ shy of his 17th birthday, the boy from Glasgow was by now almost a man.


Part two to come: The sister left behind


A son in Denmark

Even as a toddler, Oluf showed great promise as an artist. Obviously inheriting the creative gene from his father, Oluf’s talent grew and grew.  So much so, that by the time he was seven, the Carlsen family already saw a glittering future ahead of him as a master painter, a successful man.

His father, Peter, had recently fallen on hard times as a result of the war, and wanted better for his eldest son.  Choosing to build a new future in Australia where the lure of land (and financial recovery) awaited, Peter made a heartbreaking decision; the Carlsen family would emigrate – leaving Denmark, and Oluf, behind.

In the capable hands of his wife’s parents, Peter felt safe in the knowledge that his son would continue his education. That his son would one day become the artist they all knew he was destined for.

And they all lived happily ever after.


Creative license?  Who me?

In reality, the story of how seven-year-old Oluf Carlsen came to be left behind in Denmark when his family emigrated may never be known. In fantasy, it involves a caring father, a tough decision, and the promise of a brighter future for a much-loved son.

Perhaps the reality was much different, even harsher…but what’s a little bit of rose-coloured fiction between friends, right?

What we do know is that Oluf was definitely ‘a son in Denmark’ – the son Peter Oluff Carlsen wrote about four years after he arrived in Australia. Translated, this section of Peter’s letter reads:



Born on 17 June 1864, Niels ‘Oluf’ Martin Carlsen was only three when his mother and younger brother died. No doubt a terrible blow and tragic loss for the little family. By the time he was six, not only did Oluf have a new stepmother, but also a little sister, Frederikke and brother, Wilhelm.  They were two brand new siblings who Oluf would only know for a short time.

When the Carlsen’s emigrated in 1871, young Oluf stayed behind in Ålsø, Randers, with his stepmother’s parents, Jens Mikkelsen and Marie Cathrine Jensdatter.  Perhaps they were related to little Oluf?  Peter’s second wife, Ane Jensen, certainly had the same last name as his first, therefore there may have been a family connection.

Or maybe the Mikkelsens simply loved Oluf like their own child, and wanted the best for him.


[Let’s conveniently ignore at this point that 15-year-old Oluf’s role in the 1880 Mikkelsen household was ‘Domestics’ (that little snippet doesn’t fit nicely into our rose-coloured story). Ok?  Good. Moving on… 😉 ]


When we catch up again with Oluf in 1901, he is 37 and married with five children of his own.  Obviously doing well for himself, Oluf owned their house in Grenå, Randers and was working as a master painter fulfilling his father’s dream, and neatly rounding out our fantasy scenario.

It would be nice to think that father and son kept in regular touch, and imagine the many letters sent back and forth during the years they were apart; snippets of their lives, family news, and perhaps even photos.

Of course, we may never know for sure, but Peter was in contact with his sister in Copenhagen, so it’s not much of a stretch to include his eldest son among those family members he exchanged letters with – distance being no real barrier to keeping in touch.  In addition, a further hint that this was the case appears many years later at the birth of Oluf’s son, Peter Oluf Holger Carlsen, in 1892.

Like the letters, it would be nice to think that little Peter was named in acknowledgement and fond memory of Oluf’s father.

A son in Denmark, a father in Australia, and another generation to bear the family name.

In the absence of knowing their real story, the events of the past, or how ‘a son in Denmark’ came to be, all I can do is hope for the best and send them warm wishes from the future.


And they all lived happily ever after.



Special thanks to Niels at My Danish Roots for not only translating the Danish letter, but for also solving the mystery of Maren Jensen (Peter’s first wife) and finding Oluf Carlsen (born Niels Oluf Martin Carlsen). With this additional information, I was able to locate Oluf on the 1870 Census living with (*drumroll*) Ane Jensen and Frederikke Carlsen. This then led to finding Ane’s birth parish, her baptism, and parents – who also just happened to also be in the same household in 1870. Great stuff.

For a copy of Peter’s letter, click here.

Convicts and stumps

As a result of having my DNA tested earlier this year, two stumps have been cleared and seven more ancestors warmly welcomed into the family tree.

One of these stumps was a known convict, and the other was…also a convict as it turns out!   My little family of ‘criminal’ ancestors has now grown to 16, and I love it.  DNA testing has certainly kept things interesting, along with some great connections with distant cousins made along the way.

It may seem like a large number of convicts to some people, and I’m often asked if they are direct ancestors or whether they just ‘married into the family’ or were perhaps siblings.

Nope – definitely direct.

And when you think about it, we have in excess of 200 possible ancestors once we reach the 8th generation (fifth great-grandparents).  So it’s actually only around 6% of the total.

Known Ancestors
My ancestor scorecard has grown, now showing 120 ‘known’.


See?  Quite possible indeed!  Especially if you live in Tasmania, where 13 of my convicts were transported to. The other three were sent to New South Wales – the earliest arriving in 1797 on the ship Ganges.

Being a very visual person, I’ve put together a bit of a snapshot to illustrate how these 16 relate to me.  The visual shows seven generations in full, and at generations eight and nine, only my NSW convicts have been squeezed in.

Convict Ancestors
Light green indicates known ancestors, dark grey are current stumps. Only surnames of convicts are included.


My mother’s DNA result are due back any day now, and I’m excited to think of what other discoveries we may find.  Having her results will help narrow down which line of the family tree a match belongs to; if someone matches with both of us, I can rule out ancestors on my father’s side in looking for a connection.

Great stuff.


Look out, stumps – we’re coming for you.

The strongly-maybe pile

We all have them, I’m sure; records, clippings, and snippets of information put aside that seem to belong to our family history, that seem to fit nicely into our family trees.  The details add up, our gut instincts kick in, we have a good feeling about it etc, etc – but just not quite all of the information to be certain…yet.

When those extra pieces to puzzle are discovered, the strongly-maybe turns into excitedly-definitely in a flash. It takes patience and persistence, but can be so rewarding.

On my strongly-maybe pile for a while now has been the possible family of Peter Oluff Carlsen in Denmark.  I have his date of birth in 1841 from a naturalisation record, but have been unable to locate a birth or baptism to match.

Tackling the Danish Census records, I narrowed down, ruled out, filled in the gaps, followed their paths, ruled out further, and finally came up with Peter’s strongly-maybe parents – Ole Carlsen and Ane Marie Petersen (Pedersdr).  Not only were they most likely, but among the children of this couple were names including Wilhelmine, Wilhelm and Frederikke – the same names appearing in those of Peter’s own children.

Nothing concrete, but worthy of a further look.

Children of Ole Carlsen and Ane Marie Petersen:

  • Christian Wilhelm Carlsen, born 1836
  • Bolette Amalie Carlsen, born 1839
  • Peter Ole Carlsen, born 1841
  • Olsine Wilhelmine Carlsen, born 1843
  • Frederikke Olivia Carlsen, born 1846

So when a recently-discovered letter written by Peter Ole Carlsen in 1876 mentioned a sister, “Mrs F Brandt, Tordenskjoldsgade No. 29, Copenhagen”, my thoughts immediately went to Frederikke. Was she the Mrs Brandt?

“Mrs F Brandt, Tordenskjoldsgade No. 29, Copenhagen”
“Mrs F Brandt, Tordenskjoldsgade No. 29, Copenhagen”


*Cue excited searching*

Using surnames of simply Brandt and Carlsen, a possible match came back:

Marriage Index via
Marriage Index via


This Frederikke Olivia ‘Karlsen’ was a few years younger than mine, so onto the pile it went.  I was unable to find the Brandts on Census records at Tordenskjoldsgade No. 29, so put it to the side for a while and decided to focus on having the letter translated.

Joining a facebook group dedicated to genealogy translations, I tentatively posted Peter’s letter and sat back with fingers crossed. Unfortunately, my little Danish window to the past went unnoticed.

Undeterred, I contacted a research service in Denmark a few days ago. Explaining that I would like the letter translated, Niels at My Danish Roots was happy to help.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask him to search for Peter’s baptism as well, and after agreeing on a fee for both, sent him off the information I had. I mentioned Peter’s sister, Mrs F Brandt, as an aside – perhaps he could look into her as a way to find my Peter?

Shortly after, Niels came back with a reply:

“I just made a quick search and found that in May 1876, these two people were living on the first floor at Tordenskjoldsgade 29:

Johannes Hegelund Brandt, 29 years, clerk.

Frederikke Sigfride Brandt, 25 years, wife.”

*cue very excited thoughts and other stuff*

Frederikke was Mrs Brandt!!

For some reason she appears to have dropped the ‘Olivia’ middle name, but it did appear to be the same person.

Looking further, I then found Frederikke and Johannes Brandt on the 1885 and 1906 Census in Copenhagen. In 1906, living with them and listed as a relative was…*drumroll*:

Wilhelmine Rasmussen, Widow, born 1843.

It just so happens Olsine Wilhelmine Carlsen married Lauritz Rasmussen in 1863. Yet another link to the family!

Strongly-maybe to excited-definitely?  I think so.

I’ll be interested to see if a baptism for Peter can be located, and am anxiously awaiting the letter translation.  Niels hasn’t ‘officially’ stared my request just yet, so I do need to be a little bit patient.

But thanks to a letter in 1876, a name and address of Peter’s sister in Copenhagen all of those years ago, and my new best friend a researcher in Denmark, I do believe we may have just found my 4x great-grandparents.

So hello, Ole Carlsen and Ane Marie Patersen – welcome to the family.  🙂

The Princess and the Drejer

In 1876 as Peter Oluff Carlsen sat down to write a letter to the Royal War Ministry in Denmark, he had no idea of the excitement it would generate 140 years later. Filled with snippets of his former life back in his native country, Peter also included details of his Danish military service, how it ended, his profession as a Drejer [a turner and shaper of wood], and why the Carlsen family emigrated to Tasmania.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of all contained within its pages appeared to be the words another son in Denmark’.

Written in Danish, this section appears to read: ‘endnu en Søn i Danmark’ which translates to ‘another son in Denmark’.
Written in Danish, this section appears to read: ‘endnu en Søn i Danmark’ which translates to ‘another son in Denmark’.

This new discovery immediately rang a few bells. Another child?  I’d heard that somewhere before…

Then I remembered reading about a family rumour involving Otto Albert Carlsen (a son of Peter’s) who apparently ‘got the princess pregnant’ back in Denmark.  There was confusion surrounding this though, as Otto had been born in Tasmania in 1880 and then moved to Western Australia where he married, therefore it couldn’t be true. Speculation then led to perhaps the rumour relating to not Otto, but his father – Peter Oluff Carlsen.

So as you can imagine, I quickly put two and two together and came up with a scenario somehow involving me wearing a tiara and rubbing shoulders with Princess Mary of Denmark (she’s a Tasmanian too, so it was bound to happen, right?). A connection to ROYALTY.  How exciting!

But alas, my research failed to turn anything up. As with many juicy good family rumours, the story of the Princess and the Drejer appears to be just that.  Rumours have to start somewhere though, and I’d love to find out more one day.

What this new information did lead to, however, was one more potential piece to the puzzle.  As Peter Oluff Carlsen and his wife, Ane Jensen, had their first child in Denmark in 1869, I’d assumed they married around that time.  I had been unable to find their marriage, but armed with the possibility of another child, the search was broadened.  The letter Peter wrote in 1876 also provided a new clue – he wrote this as Peter Ole Carlsen, a variation of his name I hadn’t seen before.

Coming across a marriage entry for a Peter Ole Carlsen and ‘Maren’ Jensdr [Jensen] on 29 January 1864, it was quickly assigned to the ‘strongly-maybe’ pile.  They married in Grenaa, Randers, Denmark, where ‘my’ Peter and Ann were from.

Could this be them? Perhaps Ane’s real name was Maren?  Or maybe this was an earlier marriage of Peter’s?

I had no idea, but was keen to find more.

And then I found a birth of a child!  Niels Oluf Martin Carlsen was born in Grenaa only five months later to (who appear to be) the same couple.

Was Niels the son left behind?

Not knowing a lot about Danish Genealogy or where to go next to find the original marriage or baptism records, the new information stayed on the ‘strongly-maybe’ pile for months. In the meantime, I enlisted someone to help have the letter properly translated. Unfortunately this fell through, with life and stuff and other things getting in the way at their end.

So revisiting the Carlsen’s again recently, I decided to focus on finding the marriage record of Peter and Maren. Digging into the depths of the Danish Church Registers, and viewing image after image of records, I found this:

Marriage entry for Peter Ole Carlsen, Grenå Sogn, 1864.
Marriage entry for Peter Ole Carlsen, Grenå Sogn,1864.
  • Age 23 – check!
  • Born in Kobenhavn – check!
  • Residence Grenaa – check!
  • Occupation kunstdrejersvend – excited check!!

Recognising ‘drejer’ in amongst all of those letters immediately, I took to trusty Google for further help and found reference to ‘kunst-drejer’ meaning art turner as an occupation. Svend translates to ‘companion’, and ‘vend’ also translates to ‘turn’. So at marriage it appears that this Peter was either a turner of art, or a turner’s companion.  Either way, it does look very likely to be our Drejer. We also know that Peter continued turning wood as a hobby in Tasmania, and had several creations displayed at the Melbourne and Philadelphia Exhibitions in 1875.

The corresponding entry for Maren Jensdatter recorded her as aged 28, also residing in Grenaa, and born in Voldby. Voldby is in Randers (where our Ane was born according to her naturalisation record), however in 1864 she would have been 18.  The record also lists Maren as ‘Girl’, so perhaps this was an error in transcription?  It’s also possible that Maren was a different person.

So far I’ve been unable to locate the original birth or baptism record of Niels, or find any details on what may have happened to him. If he was ‘another son in Denmark’, there is a chance that his descendants are out there searching for answers as well. It may be wishful thinking, but you just never know how and when new information may turn up.

Of course, there is another possibility that there was no son left behind, and that perhaps Niels died as a child before the family departed for Australia.

Revisiting my original (clunky) translation of the letter and including a couple of additional words changed things slightly. Updated, the line now translates to “but the gardens have a son in Denmark.”

While it reads like an amusing secret code, perhaps rather than writing of a son left behind, Peter was actually trying to convey that while now considered an English subject, his roots were in Denmark.  That he was the son, and Denmark was his home?

‘men haver endnu en Søn i Danmark’. Google Translate = ‘the watermelon is in the refrigerator’. ;)
‘men haver endnu en Søn i Danmark’. Google Translate = ‘the watermelon is in the refrigerator’. 😉

Without having the letter translated properly it’s hard to say, but the path The Princess and the Drejer took me down has been enjoyable to say the least.

Seeing Peter’s writing and reading his words, I can almost ‘hear’ his voice from the past.

Signature of P.O Carlsen, Officer at Port Arthur, Tasmania
Signature of P.O Carlsen, Officer at Port Arthur, Tasmania

It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever wear a diamond-crusted tiara or inherit any royal jewels, but thanks to my 3x great grandfather putting pen to paper over a century ago, now have a treasure of a different kind.

Paper beats ‘rock’ every time.


Archive Collection: The wars in 1848 and 1864.

Archive Creator: Defence Archives (FOARK) Archive funtion medal cases.

The letter from Peter Ole Carlsen in 1876 was an application for a commemorative medal.    Interestingly, it also mentions a sister, Mrs F Brandt, residing in Copenhagen. Another clue in the puzzle, and another angle to pursue!

Peter Oluff Carlsen was also known as Peter Olaff Carlsen.


Well hello there, cousins!

When I sent off my Ancestry DNA sample a few months ago, my main hope was to break through a few stumps.  Well…just one would have been lovely, actually.  After years of researching my elusive convict ancestors, I was ready to give anything a try.

I knew that the process would involve connecting with distant cousins, and that our shared DNA would provide hints and clues as to where to search next.  I was up for the challenge, and had my ‘detective hat’ well and truly polished and ready. Let’s do this!

What I hadn’t really considered though, was how DNA could also help to further verify research.  I’d never thought about it in that way (rookie mistake), but after matching with quite a few different people who share the same ancestors as me, I quickly realised just how valuable it could be.

Take the Bannisters for example.  I know George and Ann are my ancestors; both former convicts who married in 1850 and had six children.  Early on in DNA-land, I matched with a descendant of one of these children (which was pretty exciting).  But recently, two more matches came along – from descendants of two other children. And all four of us share DNA with each other!

DNA Matches Bannister

Sure, I have paper trails and records, but I kinda like having the extra connections, and the extra little piece to the puzzle. There’s something just a bit…nice about it all.

Along with helping to verify our research, the other huge bonus of all of this is that we have a great chance of one day breaking through the stump of our mutual convict ancestors.  With my DNA alone, it’s a tough gig. But with my lovely Bannister cousins sharing their lovely DNA, we can start to narrow down connections – weeding out those that don’t have DNA in common with all (or some) of us, and looking further into the ones that do.

It’s bound to happen, right?


When that day comes, the beers are on me.