16-Mar-2022 : DNA in Family History

The use of DNA in family history has been discussed on the web for many years.  I used to read about it on a web site back in the late 1990’s.   Admittedly, I did not understand much of the discussion.  What I am talking about here may seem irrelevant to many readers but it is a “what if” situation and what sort of returns would one get from giving the necessary sample to see if there was any unknown relatives around.

What I have been working on for a long time could be described as a one name study of RAYNER families of Halstead, ESS.  I lived there for the first seventeen years of my life and visited family there at least once a year after I later settled in Gloucestershire.

So far I have created some eighty family trees, some large some very small, of RAYNERs whose origins belonged to the Great Maplestead / Halstead RAYNERs from 1500 to when they left the area (for example the Gestingthorpe RAYNERs possibly related to subject origins)..  A cut off point has to be made and many lines end fifty to sixty years ago although there were additions to the families.  What I do not know is if the subjects of this write up had anyone living in the later years when DNA was a subject for family history.  Any RAYNER around today would have to be interested in family history and offered a sample for testing.  But with a record of BDM’s like I relate here you may wonder how far it would get.

The story covers people living on Chapel Hill, which I knew well as I was born there, albeit moving across town in 1939.  I listed all the details I could find from the usual search material and it highlights the problems with the records as they were created in the past.  Two parishes used by the named family members were St Andrews, an old church from about 1515, and Holy Trinity a new church from 1844. References may be found as “Halstead St Andrews” and this has a bearing in DNA search as against just “St Andrews”.

The first names in the story are Alfred and Frances RAYNER. Alfred was born in 1844 on Chapel Hill to Henry and Sarah RAYNER.  Alfred married Frances PUDNEY (b 1849) in Halstead in 1879, Frances was probably the illegitimate daughter of a Frances RAYNER.  Daughter Frances may have had a marriage to an Unknown PUDNEY, but I did not follow up that line and there was no fathers name on her marriage certificate

Frances brought her son George into the marriage and he was ‘adopted’ by Alfred RAYNER.  Alfred and Frances had their own son Herbert born in 1880.  In the 1891 census Alfred, his mother Sarah (now 85 yrs old) and son Herbert, (now 23 yrs old), were living at 85 Chapel Hill.  No sign of Frances.

George (now RAYNER by adoption) married in 1881 with no father named on the marriage certificate.  Of their eleven children we take two males marrying ( and we exclude the chances of the daughters having illegitimate children maintaining the RAYNER name ) to keep the story simple.  If they had any children then their children or g/children might reach the era of DNA family history research.   I try to keep to the male line to carry the name back into the past but what would the children of George and Mary Ann find to ‘join up the dots’?

PRO refs indicate that a Frances RAYNER, aged 45 yrs, died in Billericay in 1891.  A later PRO ref indicates that an Alfred RAYNER, aged  66 yrs, died in Billericay in 1910.  A Herbert RAYNER was born in 1880 in Billericay.   Details looking good?  But, PRO ref for an Alfred RAYNER, aged 56 yrs dying in Halstead, in 1901 spoils the picture.  He lived on Chapel Hill when he died this fact noted in his burial record. 

Nothing further could be found to identify Herbert RAYNER. In the 1891 census Herbert gives his birthplace as Halstead which can be disregarded.

So what are the chances of an Alfred and Frances RAYNER with a son Herbert, living in Halstead and Billericay.  An Alfred dying in both places really puts “the cat among the pigeons”.

An indication of how bad records could be: In the 1881 census a George RAYNER, 39 yrs, bootmaker, from “Alsted”  was found living in Wandsworth, SRY.  His lisped “Alsted” could only be Halstead, ESS. !!  Halstead was spelled “Halsted” in earlier times.

From such a background of varying and opposing facts can anyone make something from DNA?   I would love to know.  Somewhere I read that the  DNA follows the maternal line which surely would go on a zig-zag journey through all family trees ?!!

Eureka !   I have just found the answers to my question ‘What is the benefits of DNA in Family History?’   Well I have just found the answer and if you read this up you can make up your own mind about it.

The following link takes you to Peter Calver’s web site “Lost Cousins” and in this issue he has a write up on “DNA in Family History”.   I hope it gives you all that you ever wanted to know.


Well, have you read it yet?  Did you realise what an extensive subject it was relating to Family History.  All these strangers in YOUR family tree!!   So there is the point I am making with this odd Halstead family.  With all the illegitimacy that maybe/is about should the new found ‘cousins’ really be part of or in anyone’s family tree?  A world traveller leaving his genes around the globe in days gone by….  I want to join my dots locally !

Best Wishes,


This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.