The father of my 3 x great-grandfather, Thomas Halliday Hurcombe, has been a question mark in my research almost since Day One. However, the potential identity has often been posited. It wasn’t until last night when discussing centiMorgans with a friend (consanguineous relationships!) that I realised that the means to test this hypothesis was not only within my grasp – but the answer was in my proverbial Inbox!
I have written about Thomas and his mother Ann Halliday Hurcombe Adams so many times here that I almost feel bad doing a recap:
Ann Halliday married the widowed Stephen Hurcombe in October 1835. The pair had five children (Stephen had two children with his first wife. Stephen died in March 1850. The widowed Ann went on to have two children – Thomas (1852) and Alfred (1859) – before marrying an ex-soldier, Peter Adams in 1876. (Ann also had a son – George [and again] – before she was married.)
The name that is often spoken about (when people don’t record Stephen as Thomas’ father which makes me so angry) as a possible is Stephen’s brother, David. David never married, and in the 1861 census is living in the same parish as Ann. (He is living with his nephew, John Brain.) One could say that he had means, motive and opportunity. I don’t know where this theory comes from or when it started, perhaps it is preferred as the Hurcombe/Hurcom/Harkum line is prolific in Gloucestershire and fairly easy to research – and what researcher wants that pesky ??? as a paternal ancestor?!
If David were Thomas’ father and my ancestor, then the percentage of DNA I share with descendants of Stephen and Ann would be higher than expected. So what I needed were DNA comparisons between my line and the line of the children of Ann and Stephen. Well, I have several to choose from: me, my mum, my aunt, my uncle, let alone four other descendants of Thomas to compare to (including a fairly close relative: a second cousin aka 2C). To narrow down even more changes to the admix, I opted to use my mum. What I needed was the other side of things.
I turned to Ancestry’s ThruLines to see who else descends from Ann and Stephen. I was in luck: 3 options presented themselves, all descending from Ann and Stephen’s son Emanual, two of whom seem to be – on paper – 4th cousins to my mother (4C).
What can the shared centimorgans tell us about these connections? (What is a centimorgan? It is a unit for measuring genetic linkage. It is defined as the distance between chromosome positions for which the expected average number of intervening chromosomal crossovers in a single generation is 0.01. Easy!)
A 3C to my mother (through Thomas Halliday Hurcombe) is marked as sharing 20cM and two 3C1Rs on the same line show as 14 and 15cM. Checking on DNAPainter, these all come in as consistent for their relationships. Hurrah.
Moving outward, looking at other descendants of Ann Halliday via a child with Stephen, one of the 4C is shown as sharing 9cM, and the other a whopping 47cM. 9cM is, again, totally reasonable for a 4C. The 47cM link was a bit more of a surprise. Without the other result, I might have been tempted to label this a smoking gun for the endogamy – although it should be pointed out that 47cM is not impossible for a 4C connection – if it weren’t for me checking the person’s tree and finding not one matching surname, but two. Jeepers.
After a bit of prodding and poking, it turns out that the female 4C’s 2 x GGM was the sister of my mother’s 3 x GGM. So we are related twice, once through the Hurcombe line and once through the Dunn line (there may be an additional Dunn consanguinity further up the tree, but that would affect us both before our respective lines diverge so I don’t think that’s at play here).
So what does all this tell us? I believe – and I am no DNA expert! – that this disproves the Hurcombe brothers as fathers theory. If it were the case then the centimorgans my mother shares with the two 4Cs (shown below) would both be higher than they are. None of my family show any DNA matches with any other descendant of Stephen’s siblings or cousins. If my 4 x GGF was a Hurcombe then I would have other Hurcombe relatives matching. Which I don’t. Of course, this could be because none of them have tested, but it seems more likely that it is because there are no matching testers.
So that’s half a mystery crossed off the list! There may be a DNA match languishing in my mother’s list waiting for me to piece the puzzle together, but until that time comes (i.e. until I devote several hours solely to the task!) I am happy that I can say that there is no supporting evidence for the brother theory!