Ancestral tales: a theosophist, a thief and an Indian Princess

My father had three uncles and an aunt on his father’s side and they were an important part of his formative years. I met them all as a young child, and my father told me many stories about them. In particular, I remember Aunt Boodie, the wife of his uncle Robert, as an eccentric old lady. She continued to send birthday and Christmas presents to me and my sister until we were in our teens, but they were things suitable for very young children. My father certainly thought she was very eccentric, particularly because she was a theosophist.

So in the internet age, I used the power of the internet to research her background, and to contact people who knew about some of her ancestors. And what stories I discovered. A famous poet who committed suicide, a bank robber, and an Indian princess among other things. If I had been researching in the pre-internet days (as recently as early 1990s), there is no way I would ever have discovered some of these stories or contacted descendents with some knowledge of them. Continue reading

Origin of the name Mathers

The names Mather and Mathers are not uncommon in Ireland and are thought to derive from two separate sources. The name MATHER (also MATHUR) originated in Yorkshire, England, as an occupational surname originally denoting a mower (from the Old English: Maedere ‘mower, reaper’)1. The earliest recorded instance of this surname dates from 1249 in Nottingham. This name is fairly common in England and Ireland, though in Ulster for instance it has become MATHERS. Mather is the more numerous in the other provinces and it is on record in Dublin since the first half of the seventeenth century. By the end of that century it was well established in Co. Armaugh2 where my Scottish Mathers ancestors migrated in the 1700s. Mathers has to some extent been changed to Mathews in Co. Down.

However, the Scottish name Mathers, of separate origin, was also brought to Ireland by Scottish migrants. Scotland, during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, was ravaged by religious conflict and many Scots migrated to Australia and Ireland. Families migrated from Scotland to Ireland with promises of cheap Irish land, and many settled in Armagh, including my Scottish ancestors (probably around the mid-1700s). There is always much debate about the pronunciation of the surname Mathers, by other people. It is accepted by all members of the Scottish Mathers that Mathers is pronounced as if there was a Y in it, MA(Y)THERS.

1. Reaney PH. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1997.

2. Edward MacLysaght. The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press; 1980.

Maternal ancestors: Bronze age, iron age, Roman Britain

This post has been superceded by a new post my-maternal-ancestors-from-eve-via-ice-age-europe-to-victorian-england which contains latest information from a recent more detailed analysis of my mtDNA together with revised and updated dates and locations of haplogroup founders.

This is the last of a series of posts on my deep maternal ancestors, identified through analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which is passed only from the mother to the child and so provides a trail of maternal ancestors identifiable through the mutations accumulated in the mtDNA. In this post I summarize the “recent” maternal ancestors who lived through the beginnings of agriculture in Britain, the British bronze age, the British iron age, the Roman occupation, and post-Roman Britain.

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Maternal ancestors: ice age Europe and Britain

This post has been superceded by a new post my-maternal-ancestors-from-eve-via-ice-age-europe-to-victorian-england which contains latest information from a recent more detailed analysis of my mtDNA together with revised and updated dates and locations of haplogroup founders.

In my previous post on my deep maternal ancestors (https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/02/16/deep-maternal-ancestors-out-of-africa-into-ice-age-europe/) I summarized the “grandmothers” who contributed specific mutations to my mtDNA that allow me to trace them (and approximately when and where they lived) all the way back  to Mitochondrial Eve, the most recent common maternal ancestor of all living humans. These women were real and specific individuals, and Sykes and others have given the older ones specific names (usually starting with the letter of the haplogroup they founded).  I have followed this by giving names to the founders of the subgroups to which I belong. In this post, I  give a brief biography of each of these ancestral grandmothers, starting with Mitochondrial Eve, placing them in evolutionary, geographic, and climatic context. Continue reading

Deep maternal ancestors: out of Africa into ice age Europe

This post has been superceded by a new post my-maternal-ancestors-from-eve-via-ice-age-europe-to-victorian-england which contains latest information from a recent more detailed analysis of my mtDNA together with revised and updated dates and locations of haplogroup founders.

I have only been able to trace my maternal ancestors back to my great-great-grandmother, Amelia Buckmaster, who was born in 1809 in Hounslow, Middlesex, England and who died in 1892 in Wallingford, Berkshire, England. I recently had my mitochondrial DNA tested (see an earlier post for more on mtDNA) and the results indicated that my mtDNA haplogroup is U. I did some research on the specific mutations identified in my mtDNA and identified my subgroup more specifically as U5a1a1.This means that I now know quite a lot about specific maternal ancestors and where and when they lived, all the way back to Mitochondrial Eve who lived in Africa 192,400 years ago.

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Mitochrondral Eve: the deep maternal ancestor of us all

Mitochondrial Eve is the name given to the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of modern humans. In other words, she was the woman from whom all living humans today descend, on their mother’s side, and through the mothers of those mothers and so on, back until all lines converge on one person. Mitochondrial Eve is estimated to have lived around 192,400 years ago ago in southern Africa (which makes her approximately my great*9,650th grandmother).  Continue reading

Origins — the fascination of ancestors — recent, ancient, extreme

I have had an interest in the history of my family since childhood, when I wrote a short history of the Mathers family that drew heavily on documents and recollections of family members, particularly those of a great-uncle and great-aunt born in Scotland in the 19th century. When I discovered Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as a teenager, I was fascinated by the genealogical charts in the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings. For some reason, I find the tracing of connections to a larger history deeply satisfying. Over the last ten years, I returned to researching my ancestry using the powerful tools offered by the Internet, with access to databases and historical records that I would not have dreamed possible before.

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