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.


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 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.

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:

Happy Holidays

That’s right, I said “Happy Holidays”. There are some people who seem to get upset at the use of “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. Sometimes I tell people Merry Christmas, and sometimes I say Happy Holidays. There are two reasons for this. One, there are several other religions that celebrate holidays in December. A couple of people I know celebrate the winter solstice today. I hope they have a happy holiday.
You don’t always know what the other person celebrates. I remember one Christmas when I was just starting out as a journalist, I sent Christmas cards to all my contacts. One doctor I had interviewed came back with a slightly embarrassed “Thanks but I am Muslim.”
And I know what it is like to be on the other end. When I went to school in the US, in November I was constantly being wished a Happy Thanksgiving, no matter how much I explained that actually Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Bermuda. (Although, we sometimes go to the supermarket and buy Thanksgiving takeout.) It wasn’t offensive, but sort of annoying.
At this time of year I say, “Happy Holidays” because I am not so arrogant as to think that the faith was raised in is the only one that counts in the world. Second, I say Happy Holidays to incorporate New Years and Boxing Day which are also part of the season.
Christians also seem to complain a lot about “Xmas” thinking that somehow it means that Christ has been crossed out. Quite honestly I can’t imagine why a non religious person would choose to cross out Christ but leave the “mass” which indicates a period of worship.
Actually in this case X is more of a symbol than a letter of the English alphabet.”Xmas” has been used since the 1500s in England and seems to refer to the Greek way of writing “Chr”. In ancient Christian paintings the symbol, X and XP were used to denote Christ. Sometimes the symbol XC was used to mean Christmas. So Xmas is a case of just when you think Christ is missing, there he is.

Other words that use to commonly have an X include Xstal (Crystal), Xant for Chrysanthemum. In the 17th century Xene was a common way of spelling Christine.
So get a grip, Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas.

Paid genealogy sites

I’m always surprised when people say they have been researching their genealogy for years but aren’t subscribed to any paid genealogy sites. Paid genealogy sites such as and are my weaknesses. Some women buy expensive shoes, I sign up to databases. If you have $300 to spare I highly recommend . This is sort of the mega genealogy site and they gobble up genealogy records all over the world. It’s particularly useful if your ancestors have connections in the US, but they also have UK records and access to family trees posted by other members. Warning, it’s easy to subscribe online but you have to call a toll free number to unsubscribe. When you are subscribing to paid genealogy databases always take the time to do the math. Usually the annual rate is cheaper than the quarterly or monthly rate. And the bill will charge to your card until your card expires. You have to watch the British websites. They have a slightly different system of “credits”. They want you to buy credits that buy a certain amount of information. One thing about ancestry, if they add new records while you are subscribed, they will not charge you extra to access them. But I have found with some of the British sites, every time you think you have full membership there is something else you can’t access without paying more for. Argh. though has more British records and there are also more British people signed up who have posted British family trees. There are also a lot of Australians on the site. On this site you can access British passenger records entry and exit, which is one of the main reasons I like it.


You don’t need to go back to Portugal.

Many newcomers to genealogy often assume they have to go back to the old country to access vital records. Actually, this isn’t necessarily so. In case you didn’t know the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) are trying to baptise your dead ancestors. Maybe you object to people messing with the souls of your long dead dearly departed. Quite frankly my grandparents kept to their opinions in life, and I can’t imagine them caving now that they are dead. Anyway, the good news is that in order to baptise your ancestors, the LDS have to know who they were and where they lived. They do this by travelling around the world transcribing parish records. In their attempts to convert the dead they have created a very very useful genealogy tool. Warning though, it’s not always 100 percent accurate. They have a FREE online website with searchable databases at . They have also created family history centres around the world that contain family history data including microfiche versions of parish records. Although it’s nice to go back to the old country, to get to Parish records from the Azores you can go to the LDS family history centre in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The majority of their records are from Sao Miguel and some from Madeira. When I was living in Boston my husband and I took a trip down there. My aunt has family living nearby. In Boston the streets are always cleared and salted. I went in sneakers in the middle of winter and that was an experience. I forgot my winter boots in Boston. The centre was a little building with a sheet of ice in front of it. Once we slid our way across, it was warm and cozy inside. There were a few regulars there to help. Now let me tell you the bad news. The records are in Portuguese script. They are very difficult to wade through if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. Even if you know Portuguese if you are looking at the 1880s the handwriting is quite different. So be warned that you may not come out knowing anything more than you did when you went in. You might want to stay in the neighbourhood a few days and keep plugging away at it. Their telephone number is: 508-994-8215 , according to the family history centre website. The atmosphere is very friendly and no body tried to convert us or preach or anything.