Does The Ancestry DNA Test Solve Mysteries?

My daughter with the Ancestry DNA Kit


My AncestryDNA kit.


My DNA Story


The package containing the tube you spit in on the right, and the blue liquid you add before capping.

The other day a lady told me she wanted to try Ancestry’s DNA kit so she could finally solve the mystery of why she looked Asian. She was from South America. I had to tell her that if you’re looking to solve a mystery by trying Ancestry’s DNA kit, then you might be sorely disappointed. It creates  more mysteries than it solves.

You can buy all sorts of DNA kits online. You can find out whether your dad is your dad and even look at your dog’s lineage.’s AncestryDNA kit tells you the geographic breakdown of your DNA. It also links you with other relatives who have taken the test. It sells for $79. I spent that and $69 sending my sample back through a mail courier.

They send you a box with everything you need. To give your sample, you spit into a plastic tube, then put this blue liquid in and cap it up. Honestly, the hardest part about it is just hawking up enough spit. You can’t eat or drink anything for an hour before taking the test, so your mouth might feel quite dry. Your kit comes with a number, and you have to register that on so that they can tell whose kit is whose.

You are given an option to share your DNA with scientists doing research projects. Some people are quite concerned that this data could later be used against you in some way. I ticked “no”, I did not wish to share my DNA.

When I sent it off I was pretty prepared for just about anything. The one thing I was pretty confident about was that I didn’t have any Anglo ancestry. Most of my family came to Bermuda from the Azores around 1893 with a few exceptions, or at least so I thought.

After a five-week waiting period, I finally got my results. SURPRISE! My highest percentage was 27% Great Britain. It came up only 18% Iberian, the region that includes Portugal. The rest was a mishmash of western and southern European. I thought of my aunt saying that her paternal grandmother (Anna Ponte DeSilva) wasn’t Portuguese but French. I never took her entirely seriously on that one. Anna Ponte sounds pretty solidly Portuguese, but maybe that explained the western European DNA. My paternal grandmother’s mother, Rose, was a Young from the St Johns Road/Spanish Point area and her father was reported to be an Irish police officer. (She never knew him). Could Rose’s DNA account for the majority of my DNA?

One of the nicest things about the test is that it connects you to family members who have also taken the test. It breaks it down into first cousin, second cousin and so on. I found a cousin who was equally shocked by her results. She got 37% Great Britain. However, it’s important to note that if you don’t already know the cousin, Ancestry doesn’t tell you what side of the family the cousin is on.

And unfortunately a lot of people take the test, then never come back to to see if any new relatives have popped up. I have a mystery 2nd cousin “Margaret Ruth”. I have no idea how we are related, and she hasn’t been back to check on her results since April.  It would help to get other people in the family to also do the test. That way you can compare results and figure out which side of the family your results come from.

In the future I’d like to try other tests like 23 And Me to compare results.

I was surprised by how little of any one thing I really was. Twenty-seven % doesn’t account for much, really. Taking the test, certainly didn’t solve any mysteries. I wouldn’t use it to replace good old-fashioned genealogy research techniques, like talking with older family members and going to the record office to gather concrete data. But it’s definitely interesting, and if it creates new mysteries, which isn’t a bad thing at all.


Raul Clemntino

Raul Clementino was also recognized for his work with Age Concern, during the Seniors Community Service Awards.


For 12 years, Raul Clementino helped to put a smile on the faces of Bermuda’s senior citizens by driving the Project Action bus as a volunteer.

Many of the people he drove just liked to get in the bus and go for a ride. It gave them a break from the monotony of life at home.

“Every single one, when they saw the vehicle approaching they would get very excited,” recalled Raul.

He decided to volunteer with Project Action after he saw an advertisement for drivers in the newspaper. He had just retired from his own landscaping business and he was looking for something else to do.  The late Judith Stewart, co-founder of Project Action, was one of his former clients.

Raul thought it would be a nice job and went to see her about it. She happily agreed to take him on as a volunteer and he drove the bus twice a week for the next 12 years.

He was born in Lomba de Maia, St Miguel, Azores in 1940, the son of Jose and Maria DoRamos Clementino.

Growing up, he didn’t have many educational opportunities, and left school early. As a young man, he served in the Portuguese army in Portuguese Guinea from 1961 to 1964. He came to Bermuda in 1965 looking for a better life. He said it was not a matter of going home for half a day; you didn’t get a break from the horrors of war.

“We were blowing things up,” he said. “It was a very hard time. I was scared. I would go to bed to sleep and wake up suddenly to gunfire. I was very glad when it was over.”

When he finished in the army, things in the Azores were tough. Wages were very low and there were few opportunities for self-improvement. He decided to try his luck in Bermuda. His early years in Bermuda weren’t that easy, either, but they were still easier than those in the Azores. He earned more money in Bermuda than he had previously. He started his own landscaping business called M and C Landscaping and did very well for himself.

His wife, Connie, daughter of John and Maria DaCosta, also came to Bermuda in 1965. They had never met before coming to Bermuda, but they soon got to know one another. The Clementinos describe it as love at first sight.

“I put my eyebrows to work,” Raul said with a laugh, wiggling his eyebrows. He is known for his gentle sense of humour.

They were married on March 30, 1967 at St. Theresa’s Cathedral in Hamilton, two years after they came to Bermuda.

They went back to the Azores frequently to visit their parents after their children came along.

Raul doesn’t drive anymore, because he has suffered some health issues in recent years. He misses it. Today, he likes to do a bit of gardening. His family enjoys eating the vegetables he grows in small quantities such as lettuce and tomatoes.  He still cuts his own grass.

He and Connie have three grown children Bernadette, Robert, and Goretti, and four grandchildren.

“Work hard and live easy would be my philosophy,” he said. “You have to build it first before you can move in.”

Ernest “Shubby” DeGrilla

DEGRILLA.ERNESTErnest DeGrilla was one of the winner’s of this year’s 2014 Senior Citizen Community Service Awards given by the Department of Community and CUltural Affairs. This is the piece I wrote for the booklet they hand out at the luncheon which was held this year in October.


Ernest “Shuby” DeGrilla, 74, started transporting seniors on the big red Project Action bus ten years ago after he retired from a job at IBC and UPS.

He loves meeting people, but sometimes finds it a little depressing to see people he knew from days gone by now with missing limbs. Many of the people he transports are dialysis patients.

“We save them a lot of money,” he said. “It is all free. If they had to catch a cab it would be about $120 a week. We go from one end of the Island to the other. Sometimes we can’t get up to Somerset or St George. We ask Red Cross drivers to step in and we try to get them back home afterward. He also transports Westmeath Rest Home residents. He said some of them just like to go for a ride. He also takes seniors to the Bermuda College for exercise classes and picks them up again.

“It is a busy bus,” he said. “We are grateful to Rubis for giving us free diesel.”

He said the challenge is sometimes getting down people’s narrow lanes and then battling traffic every morning.

He was born on the South Shore in Smith’s Parish where North Rock Restaurant is currently located. His parents were Arnold and Mary Moniz DeGrilla. He had a twin brother who died in infancy and four sisters. He went to school at Cavendish and left when he was 11 years old to work at Wadson’s Bicycle Shop.

They sold push bikes, radios and seeds, and later motorcycles.

He received the nickname “Shuby”, as a young child, after he took part in a singing competition during a production at the old Eagle’s Nest Hotel. Children were divided into teams. His team’s coach was Goose Gosling who gave him the nickname after the old song ‘shuby duby doo’. All the children in the team had a nickname.

He did a number of jobs over the years. He was a partner in the old Buckaroo Restaurant on Church Street. He drove a horse and carriage for the old Bermudiana Hotel transporting honeymooners. He worked on the American baselands running all their food concessions, which was a big job as there were 5,000 servicemen on the base at one time. There were cafeterias, civilian clubs, three lunch wagons and beach concessions to maintain. Eighty Bermudian women were employed to work there. After that he worked for Butterfield and Vallis for 26 years, Winter Cookson and then IBC.

“Then I retired and then jumped on the bus,” he said.

He has been married twice and has two sons, Stephen and William DeGrilla, and one grandson, Daniel, who is studying to be a doctor. Daniel lives abroad but often comes home for visits. While he is on the Island he helps his grandfather with the Project Action bus, among other things.

Shuby has a great love of animals. He has at one point had horses, show poodles, turtles and birds in his back yard on Euclid Avenue in Pembroke.

Long Bay Lane, Sandys

Ferris Simons family on Long Bay Lane in Sandys Late 1930s early 1940s.

Ferris Simons family on Long Bay Lane in Sandys Late 1930s early 1940s.










282I never really understood before where the Simons family lived in Sandys. I always thought they lived next to Springfield in Sandys. Recently though I was chatting with a man called David Jones who used to live next to them as a child. It turns out they lived and farmed on Long Bay Lane then called Chapel Road. My great grandfather, grew watermelons, among other things. I found some recent pictures of Long Bay Lane, including, possibly, the place where they lived. Now derelict and falling apart.
I met another man who has written a little history of Somerset Island between 1900 and 1950 and it really helped to put it all in perspective. Looking through the old photos I now have a context for them. Although so many of them are so rural there are no other buildings around to act as landmarks. You often see trees, fields and farm land and not much else.
Still, I’ve tried to copy some of the old photos today.
Here is the link to Jolene Bean’s photos of Long Bay Lane. Of particular importance to the Simons family would be the long garden at Felicity Hall and the derelict building.

Margaret Winchell Pires

I see that Margaret Winchell Pires has passed away. I did her bio up in 2011 for the Senior Citizen Awards Ceremony. They always recognise the people who are about to turn 100.

Here is the write-up I did for them:

Margaret Winchell Pires was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on July 14, 1912. She celebrates her 100th birthday this year. Her father William Winchell worked in a button factory. Her mother Olive Enos Winchell, was from Fayal in the Azores and immigrated to the United States around 1910. She had three younger siblings, Manuel, Marie and Joseph. In 1927 her mother remarried to farmer Samuel DeSilva and they moved to Bermuda where he had family. Margaret was about 12-years- old and left behind a world with cars and jitter bug dances to an island where cars were banned, horse and carriages were the norm, and there were few dances for youngsters her age. She was terribly homesick.
The family lived near the lighthouse in Southampton. Margaret would often stand at the top of the hill and watch the ships come in from the United States and cry because she wished she was going home with them.
When she got older, she married Adeodato “Dot” DeCosta Pires on October 20, 1932 in the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Southampton. They had two children Nelrene Monaco and Stanley Pires. They lived on Rose Hill in Southampton, and Dot farmed with his brothers. Nelrene currently lives in Florida, and Stanley lives in New Jersey.
Mrs. Monaco said her mother was always a happy lady, and never had a long face. She loved to see family come over. She loved going for a ride around Bermuda, and her door was always open to visitors. Many times her family and friends would go home after a visit with nice vegetables from Mr. Pires’ garden. She went back to the United States several times, but she never returned to the place where she was born. She did visit New York, New Jersey and to Tennessee.
“Anything would please her,” her daughter said.
Being a happy person, Mrs. Pires used to sing a lot around the house. She was an excellent cook and made cakes and pies that her family happily devoured. Her interests were reading, knitting and cooking.
“We ate very well,” said her daughter.
The last place they lived was at Seymour Farms in Southampton. Mrs. Pires is currently living at Westmeath Rest Home.
She has four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Margaret Stapleton Murder

I have researched Margaret Stapleton’s murder for a book I am writing about the British censorship department. The info here is based on news reports and a couple of personal interviews. If you have other information or recollections about the case, I would love to hear them!

In July 1941 the murder of a British censorette rocked the Bermuda community. The censorettes were brought to Bermuda to read mail passing between America and Europe. It was a good place to do this as the flying boats were not really capable of flying all the way across the Atlantic, especially if there was bad weather. The censorettes were in Bermuda to look for evidence of Axis agents operating in the US, before the US entered the war.
The Axis agents were responsible for the sinking of many British ships leaving American ports.
Margaret was the daughter of a British clergyman Gilbert Stapleton and was from Yately, Yorkshire. She had one sister, Katherine who never married.
On the evening of July 5, 1941, Margaret was invited to a party at Bleak House. It was the residence of Col Mann and Margaret was friends with his daughter. This later became Palmetto House and is currently the location of the Child Development Project in Pembroke. The theme was the orient and the place was decorated with Chinese paper lanterns and Margaret wore a silly hat. The Mann family took the phonograph outside and they listened to music under the stars. Around 8pm Margaret decided to catch the train and head home. She was renting a house with two other ladies on Pitts Bay Road.
Col Mann offered to walk her to the tiny Prospect Railway station but she refused. She laughed him off saying it was a moonlit night and what could possibly happen in Bermuda. She left pushing her bike along the track. As she walked along, some parts were very isolated. A man suddenly approached her and asked if she would like to have some fun. Nervous, she said, no, she had roommmates waiting at home who would worry about her. The man (or possibly men) then attacked her with a sawed off baseball bat with a rope around one end. After her head was bashed in she was raped. The men or (men) fled the scene.
Her roommates became worried when did not turn up and called the Manns. The Manns then went to look for her. The train came a long, the driver stopped the train and he helped them search. They found her bicycle, then socks rolled up in her shoes, then her body in the grass along the railway trail. The police were called. It was, by the way, Police Commissioner McBeath’s first day on the job.
The community was shocked to the core at the news that Margaret had been murdered and raped. The censorship department thought that it could be relation for their work, so they gave out very little info about the case at first. FBI agents were brought in to investigate but they could find very little information at all. For over a year the case went unsolved. Then two Portuguese Bermudian men in prison came forward and told authorities that their fellow prisoner, Harry Sousa had confessed to the murders. Harry was a 23 year old who was in the BVRC. He was a bit of ner do well whose only hobby was wandering from bar to bar in the evenings. He was in prison for raping a 14 year old girl. He told his prisonmates that if he had done to her what he did to that British woman he wouldn’t be in prison.
When questioned, and later during his trial, Harry denied his guilt, confessed, denied his guilt, then said he was with his friend Bermie Drennan all day, and Bermie would vouch for him.
Sousa was represented by David Tucker. During his trial, Bermie was a hostile witness who did little to help or hinder the case. He claimed that he and Harry were together that day, and that Harry gave him a ride on the front of his pedal bike, but he basically left him before the murder. He could not answer the most basic questions about what he did that day, to the point where the Magistrate declared his behaviour was criminal. But for whatever reason, they could not prosecute him or it was too late in the trial.
Also during the trial, Sousa’s two fellow prisoners claimed that the Commissioner of Police bribed them with the 600 pound reward to make up a story about Harry. This was later disproven and their testimony was completing unconvincing. McBeath pointed out on the stand that the reward for the capture of Margaret’s killer was a lot more than 600 pounds.
Before sentencing the Chief Justice said to Sousa: “Have you anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon you?” “I still say I do not know nothing about it,” the convicted man muttered. “Is that all?” questioned the Chief Justice. “I do not know nothing about it,” said Sousa.
Harry was Pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang on the anniversary of Margaret’s death. After the sentencing, Harry confessed to police that Bermie had also killed Margaret but it was too late. Bermie was rushed out of Bermuda, and was stationed in Germany. He went on to have a good life.
Sousa’s lawyer, who was a very interesting personage in his own right, made an appeal to the Privy Counsel in London, but it failed.
But the story is not over. Harry Spent the evening before his execution playing cards with two of his guards, who were also Portuguese Bermudian. At some point they left him, and Harry climbed up on the toilet and then squeezed through a seven inch gap in the window. The jail was then located on Reid Street.
The next day began an Island wide man hunt for Harry. Everyone got into the action including 50 Pictou Highlanders. He was eventually found hiding in a cave in Pembroke. Apparently there was some area down there known as The Ducking Stool. A man named Harold Motyer found Sousa. As soon as Sousa realized he had been found he jumped into the water and started to swim out to sea. An inspector stood on the shore and said in a loud firm voice, “Come in, Sousa”. Sousa was hauled back in the boat and taken back to prison. He was hung the next day and buried on Burt’s Island. The grave was later destroyed and grassed over to make way for a camp ground.

Margaret was buried at St John’s Church in Pembroke.

Grandma Nogueira’s Devil Dump Cake

A couple of years ago I purchased a book online. It was a sort of scrap book called Our Familia Cookbook and Customs by Alvera Leal. It came from California. The book is handmade full of recipes with some info about the Azores and the Leal, Homen and Nogueira family. Someone must have pitched it, but their loss was my gain. It is clearly made by a mother or grandmother for her children. The other day my daughter pulled it off the shelf and brought it to me. I thought it might be interesting to share some of Mrs Leal’s recipes here. I’ve never tried it myself as I don’t eat eggs. If you make the recipe please send me a photo of you and your family enjoying it to . Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Page under “Portuguese Bermudian History” .

Grandma Nogueira’s Dump Devil Cake
1 cup of sour or sweet milk
1/2 cup of chocolate
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup of oil
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

Mix all together and beat well. Bake in greased pan in 350F oven until done.

The filling includes one small can of chopped pineapple, add a little water, 4 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp of cornstarch. Mix all together and spread on cool cake.


Okay, it seems I have made a mistake by recommending the Bermuda white pages to people outside of Bermuda. I thought they were online but only the yellow pages are online under Yabster. Still it’s worth having a poke around the Yellow Pages as many families have businesses that use their surname. Smiths Ltd, for example.

Finding Relatives in Bermuda…

Some time ago a person outside of Bermuda contacted me trying to connect with their birth family. Unfortunately, the birth family wanted nothing to do with them. I felt a bit sorry for the person, but they eventually went away. Ironically, the person failed to comprehend that Bermuda is a very very small place. The surname the person was looking for was not common. In reality, all the person had to do was find a Bermuda phone book and start calling everyone in it with that surname.
As a journalist, when I am trying to find someone, I often use this method. I open the phone book and try to find someone with that surname preferably in the same parish, but not necessarily. Inevitably, I will find some elderly person, and elderly people are usually helpful. I don’t know, but call this person, they will say, and after following a trail of helpful people, I will find the right person.
If you can’t access the phone book trying googling the surname and “Bermuda” and see what you come up with. Facebook the name. Run it through The Royal Gazette website at .
Even with a name like Smith, if you call every Smith in the phone book, you will not necessarily find someone related to that person, but you will find someone who knows that person. In Bermuda’s there’s something like two degrees of separation between people rather than six. The population is only around 60,000.
But be mindful that your long lost family members may not want to connect with you. Some families are suspicious. You may be a successful lawyer and they may be dirt poor, but they will insist that you can only be connecting with them to borrow money. Or they don’t want to talk with you because they had a falling out in 1963 with relatives connected to you. Or they know something about you they don’t want to say, or are just preoccupied with their own lives and don’t have time or emotional space to deal with you. I’m not an advocate of stalking. If you make contact and they aren’t interested then give up. Stop. Try to leave your contact details with them. Sometimes people will come back to you when their life situation is less chaotic, or their curiosity has gotten the better of them.
Useful website: