Isn’t this just a wonderful picture? Even though the picture is of two very excited female cousins, it’s all because of Y DNA. Don’t tell anyone, but I think we might have jumped up and down a few times too (wink), with very good reason!
This exuberant photo is my cousin, Mary and me, in the cemetery of the church in Downham, Lancashire, England where our ancestor, Thomas Speake was baptized in 1634. How we got here is truly a genetic journey, and we couldn’t have done it without our Speak male cousins who were all too willing to help by Y DNA testing!
Mary and I share ancestor, Nicholas Speaks, who was born in 1782 in Charles County, Maryland and migrated as a child with his father to Washington County, Virginia where he married Sarah Faires. The young couple homesteaded in Lee County, Virginia, establishing the first Methodist Church in the area about 1822.
When Cousin Mary and I began our genealogy journey, along with a few other cousins, years ago, we didn’t have any information prior to Lee County. Where did Nicholas come from and who were his parents?
Over the years, our line was traced back to Maryland in the 1600s to immigrant Thomas Speak. However, we were truly stuck in Maryland, with absolutely no idea where Thomas originated in the UK. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Several Speak men Y DNA tested when DNA testing became available, and then the wait began. A few years later, they matched a man who lived in New Zealand. The Speak cousin from New Zealand knew a lot more about his ancestors in England than we did since they migrated to New Zealand in the 1800s, not the 1600s like our Thomas Speak.
Our newly discovered cousin from down-under pointed us to the little town of Gisburn, where his Speak ancestor was born and baptized. Our Thomas’s baptismal record wasn’t in Gisburn, but working in a circle in surrounding communities turned up Thomas’s baptismal record in 1634 in the tiny village of Downham, just 4 miles distant.
The baptismal record further told us that Thomas was from an even smaller village, if that’s even possible. Twiston is more of a farming hamlet (shown below), a mile or so away from Downham down a tiny road so twisty that anything larger than a passenger vehicle can’t navigate the road. Let’s just say I have personal knowledge of this issue:)
Two years later, after our amazing DNA discovery, followed by confirming record discoveries, about 20 descendants of the Speak family of Gisburn and Downham, including our New Zealand cousin, arranged a tour back to our homeland. We met in London, having rented a bus and driver, and off we went to Lancashire on a journey back in time.
This amazing adventure truly was the trip of a lifetime, a dream come true, with cousins near and dear to my heart, finding and honoring our common ancestral homeland.
All, thanks to Y DNA. Y DNA isn’t always a sprint, although sometimes you have an important immediate match. Y DNA is sometimes more of a wait and be patient proposition, as the DNA results are constantly fishing for you – but it’s so, so, worth the wait.
I hope that you too get to hug your cousin in the cemetery where your ancestors are buried on a journey someplace you could never have imagined. But you’ll never get to hug in that cemetery if you don’t start the journey by testing. I couldn’t test myself, being a female, but I surely could test my cousins – and I have – lots of them!
All of genetic genealogy is a collaborative journey and you never know which new tester will make that fateful difference!
With Father’s Day on the horizon, and a sale at Family Tree DNA, there’s no better time to test your male lines that haven’t yet tested. You truly never know what wonderful adventure or new cousin is waiting. Give the gift of discovery.
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