Birchall DNA



Ancient Eda

How to study Family History ...

Ancient Eda, our mum, died at 103 years old, we were 72 ... during weekly visits to the Nursing Home Eda only managed to talk about the long long ago ... but she told fascinating stories about her Granddad Edward ... stories which were mysteries to us and posed burning questions ... we panicked because soon there would be no one around to ask. To help the conversation to flow we started to Google and make some notes ... and our very own family story started to grow & grow ... embarrassingly we had no idea what had really gone on ... but we guessed that some of the shenanigans might be interesting ... you never know?  

Earlier when our own curious youngsters had asked ... who was Aunty Clara ? ... we had made an effort to map a 'family tree' on a roll of old wall paper. We told the kids how the tree grew as best we could but it wasn't very good. However we did remind them that they had enjoyed an excellent start in life ... because they had chosen their own parents well ... both mum & dad were survivors ... and also teachers.

We never forgot the times when our own mum's grumbling turned into a raw entreaty -

'use your imagination!'

The kids had inherited the tools and now they had to use them for themselves if they were to survive ... just like their ancestors did.

So the old family tree on faded paper was a bit of a mess but 'stories' about what might have happened were a much better bet. We knew fables had always been cultural necessities for 'tuning the brains' of the youngsters ... and everyone else for that matter ... it was as if brains thought stories as stories captured imaginations and stories were remembered ... stories had staying power. Our roll of old wall paper just didn't cut the mustard ... it painstakingly recorded births, marriages & deaths ... but it didn't tell the story.

Charles Darwin told the greatest story of all, we were impressed big time, and so were many others, even some of the Bishops agreed it was best to search for nuggets beneath your feet on the ground rather than in make believe above your head ... and re-telling exciting yarns was positively therapeutic for us wrinklies ... a sort of cathartic outpouring, an emotional rant which emptied the mind of the stuff which was instantly available but only possibly worth remembering ... but who was to judge?

If you have a look at our Birchall story ... you'll find a maze of memorabilia and you never know you may discover some useful insights ... but if you're a Birchall it will surely be fun ... and some of it might even be true? 

Family HistoryFind your way around - 

john p (1939-) was a saxophone player and a beer drinker.

Edward Hindley (1885-1935) - our maternal great grandfather left a legacy of investments in chemicals and the inspiration of 'education & compound interest'.

Edward Hindley - older yarns about nous, wit and hard work, honesty & thrift which touched all the economic happenings in Cheshire which led to, and were consequences of, the scientific & industrial revolutions ... discovering & accumulating business synergies ... mass production in factories -

Deep History of Folk & Cows in Rural Cheshire - cows and the Brits, Romans, English, Danes & Normans; emerging Anglo Saxon culture, markets, fairs & the Gandys of Great Budworth

17th century - freeholders, dissenters & cheese makers

18th century - feeding the cities & husbandry, Warrington grocers & cordwainers, Antrobus life & rivers of change

19th century - Victorian manufactories

Ancient Trades & Crafts of Rural Cheshire - cheese, horses, potatoes, cordwainers, tanners, coopers and, of course, blacksmiths and the Old Hindleys of Bedford/Astley 

Billy Gibson & George Hormbrey - friends, businessmen, Methodists, Whigs, educators & wealth creators ... ordinary folk of rural Cheshire with wit & nous, who discussed & challenged everything but knew little about the economics of comparative advantage at Crewood Hall?

These guys probably didn't even know the name of Adam the Smith and would have struggled to cope with the biology of moral sentiments & synergies of specialisation & scale that he had hammered out at his forge ... nevertheless they were all survivors and coped well ...

Industrial RevolutionWeaver Refining Co Ltd - our very own yarns about nous, wit and hard work, honesty & thrift -

Merchants of Liverpool - Liverpool Port, River Weaver, triangular trade and competition from Warrington and Bristol ... and the Industrial Revolution in the North West

Early Industrialists in Flintshire - lead in Gadlys, copper & cotton in The Greenfield Valley, iron in Bersham, zinc in Greenfield and new investment capital from John Freame.

Chemical Manufactories in Cheshire - nitre beds, Northwich salt, Le Blanc, Brunner Mond & ICI and Cattle Products & the tricky issue of Animal Slaughter & Regulation.

in partnership with three remarkable families the Neills & the Grimditches & the Galloways

and building on the important legacies of -

Nathaniel Milner - Georgian Gentlemen, Salt Proprietors & Brunner Mond & Co ... and Yorkshire Wool from the merchants of Leeds

Thomas Baylies - Acton Forge & Vale Royal Company ... and the Quakers of Baptist Mills & Coalbrookdale

Daniel Whittaker - Northwich Mill & Cotton Twist Company of Holywell ... and Manchester Cotton & bankruptcy

Thomas Ryder - Marston Forge & Thomas Ryder & Co ... and Steam Engines & the production of money at Soho

William Sherratt - Acton Forge & Salford Iron Works

William Swift - Acton Forge    

John Budd - Zinc Works & Vivian & Sons ... and Cornish Tin & Swansea Coal

Richard Lloyd - Richard Lloyd & Co

William Edward Maude - W E Maude & Co

Tommy Astles - Manure Works

Lowwood Gunpowder - Saltpetre Works

There were some local competitors just down the river; the Runcorn Bone Works & the Leventons ... and on the Trent & Mersey Canal; the Rookery Bridge Refining Company & the Gortons ... and the Smiths on the Irk in Manchester and the Shropshire Union Canal at Tattenhall ... 

British Glues & Chemicals - amalgamation & modernisation, adding value from manure, to glue, to edible gelatine and Tom Walton, Business Economist - and the legacies of -

Charles Massey & Son - Newcastle-under-Lyme

Meggitts - Sutton-in-Ashfield

Quibell Brothers - Newark-on-Trent 

Grove Chemical Company - Appley Bridge ... and the Haworths

Williamson & Corder - Walker-on-Tyne

Weaver Refining Company - Acton Bridge

J & T Walker - Bestwood

Croda - synergies of specialisation & scale, and global speciality chemicals.

George W Birchall (1875-1960) - our paternal grandfather left a legacy of social nous, he was a craftsman, publican and the sire of a couple of brothers who were soaked in Northwich salt & the chemical industry and were both mean sportsmen and beer drinkers.

Birchall Brothers - East Cheshire industrialisation & the urban trek to the mills and to trades 

Silk Throwing - Stockport, Macclesfield & Congleton 

Fustian Cutting - Congleton with the Knappers & in Middlewich with the Fletchers.

John Howarth (1852-1922) - Carole's maternal great grandfather left a legacy in print, 'The Voyage of The Rangitiki' and 'The Padiham Advertiser' and the inspiration of 'pioneering endeavour' as he searched for betterment for his family in the Antipodes ... and through his daughter his genes met up with those of Thomas Telford.   

John Howarth - publisher of 'The Voyage of The Rangitiki' and 'The Padiham Advertiser'

Rangitiki - immigrant sailing ship to New Zealand

Thomas Telford - Civil Engineer extraordinaire and builder of the industrial revolution ...

How do we trace our link back to Thomas Telford ... now that would be interesting ... !


 and there were others ...

 Birch Smith - distant cousin, who played Dixieland cornet with Turk Murphy and knew a thing or two about rhythms and medical physics.

 Alf Gaskill - ghillie, who also ran the Warrington Powders Factory and knew a thing or two about leadership and getting things done.

 The Banjo Player - fettler, who also once played a banjo but loved his 'bone and knew a thing or two about team work and nous.

 'Edley - beer drinker, who  was also a Headmaster and knew a thing or two about having fun and playing hard.


Birchall DNA 



NB caution !! ... we only keep these notes on our interweb so we don't lose them ... a few bits of prosaic prose for a bit of fun!

... so just remember any resemblance to relevance may be coincidental?


 Play the song first!

The Galaxy DNA Song            Eric Idle Monty Python

Just remember you’re a tiny little person on a planet
In a universe expanding and immense
That life began evolving and dissolving and resolving
In the deep primordial oceans by the hydrothermal vents
Our earth which had its birth almost five billion years ago
From out of a collapsing cloud of gas
Grew life which was quite new
And eventually led to you
In only three point five billion years or less.
        Life is quite strange
        Life is quite weird,
        Life is really quite odd
        Life from a star is far more bizarre,
        Than an old bearded man they call God
        So gaze at the sky, and start asking why
        You’re even here on this ball
        For though life is fraught
        The odds are so short
        You’re lucky to be here at all…

Deoxyribonucleic acid helps us replicate
And randomly mutate from day to day.
We left the seas and climbed the trees
And our biologies
Continued to evolve through DNA.
We’re 98.9 per cent the same as chimpanzees
Whose trees we left three million years ago
To wander swapping genes out of Africa which means
We’re related to everyone we know.

Standing on a planet which is spinning round a star
One of just a billion trillion suns
In a Universe that’s ninety billion light years side to side
Wondering where the heck it all came from.
You’ve a tiny little blink of life to try and understand
What on earth is really going on
In biology and chemistry
Which made you you and made me me
But don’t ask me I only wrote the song.


Adam RutherfordBirchall DNA - a deep story emerges ...

So on June 23rd 2018, inspired by our mate John Rees, we handed over 50 squids for an 'Ancestry' DNA analysis and managed, without too much trouble, to salivate into a test tube. We were enthralled by the prospect of breaking through the fog that had engulfed our efforts to detail the Birchall Family Tree. Unfortunately we were also aware that this enthusiasm had generated a thirst for a bit of understanding about how the hell all this DNA ackamarackus actually worked? Wot did it all actually mean? ... could this black art answer the lurking question at the back of our minds; were all our Neanderthal traits kosher?  

Yellowing piles of ancient decaying parchments could be interesting for family historians but we soon realised that most of the interesting happenings were not written down! ... and if they were writ ... and if the writings survived ... the words always seemed to mean different things to different folk at different times in different places. And then some wag also pointed out that, in any case, the parchments were often works of fiction ... and worse still they were sometimes rewritten later on a whim ... and occasionally even testimony under oath in the law courts was subject to obfuscation. And more, there was the intriguing question of wot really happened to the folks who couldn't write? And more more, wot happened to folks who could write before they could write? ... Family History all seemed to be like an infernal quagmire ... we very soon became very lost.

Exhausted after bashing through endless walls brick by brick our own tree had arrived at the mysterious Johannis Berchall of Winick in 1565 and the unlikely William Gandy of Frandley in 1542 ... just 14 generations and less than 500 years and the paper trail petered out, we had run out of parchments!

Wot had we learned? The Scientific & Industrial Revolutions were fascinating but the Birchall hard evidence was elusive ...   

Birchall DNAHowever the scientists were adamant that Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid was different.

DNA built mind boggling complexity over unimaginable oceans of time and at least one thing was certain ... it was impossible for physics & chemistry to lie. For certain DNA chemistry had survived the ravages of time and its veracity had been proven by the rigors of science - observation, mathematical theory, testable hypotheses, experimental validation and peer review ... science was our current best effort at understanding ... science was not just another opinion, Science was 'know how' unknown to most Bishops, Princes, General & Bureaucrats, science emerged from a cooperative team of peers ... you could con all the folk some of the time and some of the folk all of the time but you could never con all the folk all the time ... to us grubby engineers the laws of physics & chemistry were unimpeachable.

Such apparent certainty was an exciting start point as Family Historians turned themselves into Biological Historians ... at least something was now fathomable.

But there was always a snag and the chemistry of DNA very soon became very very complicated ... replicating molecules copied information, chromosomes contained sequences of instructions to make interactive proteins from amino acids, autonomous cells contained a complete manual for growth & development by subdivision & specialisation, sex added to the random diversity which was the feedstock for evolutionary change by natural selection which somehow or other generated synergies when folk interacted ... through this 3.5 billion year helter-skelter of life on earth it seemed to be the coded info, the 'know how', that mattered not the physical & chemical structures ... or were they both the same thing ... it was info that was embedded in DNA which resulted in the 'miracles' -    

DNA molecules faithfully replicated themselves with just enough copying errors to make life interesting ...

DNA harnessed useful energy from the sun & constructed chloroplasts in plants ...

DNA harnessed useful energy from chloroplasts & constructed mitochondria in animals ... 

DNA in eukaryotic cells made animals mobile & horny ...

DNA made some animals experience excitement & fear ...

DNA made the girls (& the boys, but especially the girls) defend their somatic investments from parasites & predators ...

DNA made some species which developed big brains & manipulating hands which sussed out social synergies of specialisation & scale ... and it was Homo Sapiens who cottoned on to agriculture, husbandry & trade ... social & cultural activities which shaped the modern world ... and shaped the fascinating story of the Birchalls.

Richard DawkinsRichard Dawkins & his mates, like John Maynard Smith & Robert Axelrod, knew far far more about the Birchalls and their issues than was revealed by our optimistic Googling of the parchment scans -

'The key to doing well lies not in overcoming others but in eliciting their cooperation. Individuals don’t have to be rational; the evolutionary process alone allows successful strategy to thrive, even if the players do not know why or how. No central authority is needed, cooperation is self policing. Cooperation evolved because two cooperating individuals must do better than they would if each acted on their own ... Adam Smith's principle of division of labour in his pin factory was relevant at all levels ... in multicellular organisms, cells specialised to perform different functions ... and all cooperators benefited ... genes did cost benefit analysis.'  

Stephen HawkingThese outrageous suggestions were not talking heads pontificating, this was scientific 'know how', a self correcting methodology of acquiring knowledge & understanding ... the great Steven Hawking was on the ball -

'Some individuals were better able than others to draw the right conclusions about the world about them and act accordingly. These individuals were more likely to survive and reproduce so their pattern of behaviour and thought became dominant'

We reckoned the greatest of all Steven's 'individuals' was Charles Darwin ... but remember he was -

'a dwarf sitting on the shoulders of giants' ... 

It was Charles Darwin who pondered, mulled happenings over and tested out his ideas in his imagination and in his science ... and when pressed he suggested a simple truth -

'I was led to it all through wondering why?'  

Charles DarwinIn 1859 Charles Darwin uncovered new opportunities for historians -

'it's an awful stretcher, most people don’t get it, I must be a very bad explainer, of all the differences between man and the lower animals, the moral sense or conscience is by far the most important ... light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history'

... and that seemed to us Birchalls to be spot on ... and the penny dropped.

In this way the DNA biology gave very big clues about how Birchalls behaved and thought ... but only very small clues about Birchall identities.

This was the first big lesson from our 'Ancestry' DNA analysis.

Folk came from the same universal & evolving gene pool but married distinct individual cousins.

Folk had universal emotions of excitement & fear but individual beliefs about the biggest question of all ... how to make sense of evolutionary happenings? 

(Rain check ... did the Boeing 747 really evolve by natural selection? ... by discovery & accumulation?)

The ClusterfuckThe Entangled Clusterfuck

So Family History for us decrepit Birchalls became a fun story about some of the memorable outcomes of natural selection ... the copy/vary/select process of DNA chemistry ... the Birchalls, just like everybody else, had dipped into the homo sapiens gene pool and bagged a unique collection of combinations & mixes of pre-existing variants from mom & pop which had just happened to have differentially survived.

But the killer was that instead of a clear linear genealogy, often found under the front covers of dusty family bibles ... the happenings were an interminable mess ... our cousins multiplied and exploded and our pedigrees folded in on themselves as branches looped back and became networks ... best described by Adam Rutherford as 'an entangled Clusterfuck' ... and yes the word was in the 'Urban Dictionary' ... everybody became enmeshed in a woven web from an evolving gene pool. The Birchalls all flowed into and out of existence as the genetic past flowed in and the genetic future spilled out. 

History as writ was a mere sliver of a gigantic history of a species which involved -

at least 3.5 billion years of ongoing evolution on planet earth ... with no discontinuities yet discovered? ...

and why not 13.6 billion years of continuous evolution from the Big Bang on? 

But ... and there was a big but.

The Birchalls, just like everyone else, mostly believed in an alternative very familiar view of our world, a 'Weltanschauung', a world shaped by plausible, deliberate, rational, purposeful, intentions & plans ... a God behind every tree ... all things bright & beautiful the lord God made them all ... a very un-Darwin like top down design extravaganza.

But we were all wrong ... the method of science discovered, very recently, that evolutionary happenings just cropped up ... they were not orchestrated by the whims of Bishops, Princes, Generals nor Bureaucrats ... happenings were misunderstood ... the only thing that was certain was that DNA made individual Birchalls uniquely unfathomable ... but at the same time, and again, just like everyone else, the Birchalls were universally excitable & fearful ... and universally mobile & horny ... so, think about it, all the different Birchall girls universally danced backwards ... wot on earth was going on? 

It seemed particular genetic variants made us all individually unique but nothing special ... however the evolving gene pool, which defined our species, was special because the pool was full of successful survivors from the past, all special because they had escaped from the grim reaper ... and for the frustrated family historians the gene pool told an alternative unassailable story about the past ... and also told us little about our future, about surviving synergistic behaviours & cultures ... the history of the gene pool became fascinating ... and very relevant ... from the evolution of the gene pool we could learn ... we could learn about survival and we could learn about synergy ... that was certain ... if you follow our drift!?

Now here's the rub. Why was individual diversity so important?

Darwin explained the copy/vary/select process in 1859 ... after economist Adam the Smith fed him clues about human behaviour & human thought in his yarns about 'Moral Sentiments' & 'Wealth of Nations'. The Smith explained how cooperative synergies made the world go round in his pin factory ... and why the girls danced backwards ... no differences no synergies. 

Baldwin EffectBiological History

Family Historians everywhere tried to get their heads around Charlie Darwin ... it seemed that there was a need, or rather a necessity, for individual variation if populations were to change and to survive, but, at the same time, there was an inevitability of universal similarities as successful survival strategies proliferated in the populations ... this was experimental changes and natural selection ... differential survival.

We inherited our ancestors but our descendants were different.

Our DNA proved the Neanderthals were in the Clusterfuck but we were not Neanderthals.  

Smart cookies and Biological Historians listened to the Darwinian scientists -

'A pre-existing inherited variant with a survival advantage in the local environment always increased in population frequency in the gene pool as alternative variants died out; thus changing the environment which then fed back and influenced the survival chances of any new variant.
The giraffe's long neck was not intelligently designed; rather short necked giraffes died out.'

But that didn't help much, most folk were plain mesmerised ... however when they had a think about the peahen's fascination with the peacock's tail  and mongrels and coy girls ... for some the penny began to drop?

why do mongrels secure genetic advantages? -

inbreeding was dangerous ... ask the Habsburgs about the survival of inefficiency?

immune systems generated legions of T-cell variants ... thus increasing the chances of a kill?

no differences, no synergies ...

why do coy girls secure genetic advantages? -   

access to eggs was a big deal, only 1 a month and then nothing for 9 months ... defence against parasites & predators was a survival advantage? 

genes did their own cost/benefit analysis ... not only selecting efficient genes, but also selecting the behaviour & culture of their mates?

no defences, no stocks ...

In this way, without thinking ... and without recourse to any detailed spreadsheet plans ... the Birchalls (& Whelans!) didn't marry failures ... sure failures were different? ... but there could be no synergies with failures!

The planning problem for the girls (& the boys) was that nobody knew in advance which of the random genetic mutations would be beneficial ... but then nobody was starting from scratch because the existing gene pool was already full of successful survivors ... got it!

So Birchall & Whelan boys ended up married to girls similar to themselves from the existing pool, similar genes, similar behaviour & similar culture ... but not too similar ... each copulation had the potential to mix up the existing genes something rotten ... but luckily (however Darwin suggested it was very much NOT luck but rather 'natural selection') ... it proved physically impossible to accumulate dead heads, runts & bummers in the gene pool ... such misfits found it increasingly difficult to survive and grow in the population ... in short they were sifted out ... misfits had fewer surviving babies ... only survivors survived ... and to survive with alacrity it appeared cooperation & synergy were needed ... which proved a little difficult for dead heads.

But don't get it wrong - misfits were sifted out by 'natural selection' ... they had statistically fewer surviving babies ... they were not sifted out on the whims of intelligent design ... the Bishops, Princes, Generals & Bureaucrats had no privileged access knowledge and the 'misfits' they identified might just be tomorrows scientific geniuses.  

But don't get it doubly wrong - it was always the case that parasites & predators survived ... you've met 'em ... as soon as there were stocks there were thieves. The speedy evolution of pathogens themselves gave our immune systems a run for their money in the spiraling cycles of the struggle for existence ... it was an arms race. 

However all was not lost ... remember the parasitic organelles from the past, like chloroplasts and mitochondria ... they survived and earned a grateful round of applause from everybody ... these energy harvesters taught us a lesson ... some 'parasites' survived long term because they turned 'cooperative' as they secured a synergistic niche in the eukaryotic cell ... and proliferated?

All these catawampus happenings made Biological History both infuriatingly difficult & muddled ... but great fun ... one gigantic Clusterfuck?

So how did it all work?

Modern SynthesisWot's DNA?   

Counterintuitive Biological Science and breath taking progress -

1759 & 1776 Adam the Smith identified a preposterously successful species in the pubs & clubs of Edinburgh during the Scottish Enlightenment. Homo Sapiens was distinguished for acclaim by their remarkably ingenious capacities for 'Moral Sentiments' and 'Wealth Creation' without divine intervention.

'Moral Philosophy' & 'Natural Philosophy' became inextricably linked with Adam the Smith at Glasgow University. 

1859 Charlie Darwin explained the unbelievable notion of 'natural selection' which unsurprisingly nobody believed. The process acted on inherited differences & cashed in on synergies as less efficient variants were sifted out & died in a lethal process of differential survival.

Malthusian resource scarcity checked population growth and made survival a continuous struggle.

1865 Gregor Mendel discovered the rules of inheritance, by experiment cross fertilisation of blue & white pea parents didn't produce a blend in offsprings. Each parent had 2 sets of genetic alternatives (alleles) but they were segregated & assorted into only 1 set per parent which were inherited at fertilisation of the offspring to restore the two alternatives (alleles). The expression of the genes in the environment as offspring developed followed the third law of dominance; only 1 (recessive) of the 4 possible combinations of inherited alternatives produced white peas the other 3 (dominant) possibilities were blue.

The Laws of Units of Inheritance - Segregation, Assortment & Dominance.

1930 R A Fisher developed genetic population statistics and the modern synthesis of Darwin & Mendel and Chromosome Theory. Genetic information was stored in 23 chromosomes in the cell nucleus. 97% of our DNA was in 22 pairs, one set from mum & one set from dad. The pairs were then shuffled into one set in the testes & ovaries ... the two sets one from mum & one from dad were then recombined at fertilisation in an offspring.
The 23rd 'sex' chromosome contained an X X pair for girls but an X Y pair for boys with the Y inherited only from dad. One other bit of DNA in mitochondria, outside the nucleus, was inherited only from mum. 

Life was built from existing inherited Cells which originated from Cell Division & Cell Specialisation.

1953 James Watson & Francis Crick defined the chemical & physical structure of DNA. A double helix which unzipped & rebuilt copies of sequences of A-T C-G nucleotide bases which synthesized 20 amino acids. The amino acids didn't interact in isolation, but in different combinations they built the proteins/enzymes of metabolism & physiology.

Faithful, Stable, Replication with just enough copying errors to make life interesting.

1970 Lynn Magulis suggested a Theory of Endosymbiosis and an evolutionary breakthrough as eukaryotic cells were formed from the merging of small single celled prokaryotic Bacteria & Archaea.

Symbiosis, involved a living arrangement of two different organisms which together could be mutually beneficial. DNA had previously existed independently maybe with a protected nucleus. Mitochondria and chloroplasts, the two major organelles processing energy for life, were descendants of free living prokaryotic cells of bacterial species.

Eukaryotic cells cashed in on survival benefits from synergies of specialisation & scale with a nucleus containing the chromosomes and separate organelle specialisations, which combined into autonomous modules which built scale in multi celled Plants & Animals.

In addition to random copying errors, the merging of different organisms provided further diversity.

Evolution built from the bottom up as synergistic interactions tended to survive as parasitic interactions tended to be sifted out of the melee.

Life did not take over the globe by beggar thy neighbour, but by networking cooperation.

2001 Fred Sanger & Craig Venter mapped the human Genome which contained just 21,000 protein coding genes that worked in teams and generated phenotype structural & behavioural traits ... and 97% was mysterious junk? For scaffolding, switching, punctuating, sequencing time & space ... and repeats & redundancies? Copy - Two copies of each gene resided in alleles. Vary - Diversity came from copying errors, symbiosis, sex & allele alternatives. Select - Natural Selection acted on these differences.

Uncontaminated DNA helixes were extracted, then split by heat into a single strand, cut by enzymes into pieces of differing lengths and beginnings marked with an annealed 'primer'. The mix of lengths was added to 4 separate enzyme concoctions which stopped the DNA growth at 4 different fluoro marked base positions; A T C G. Each of the four resultant mixes of different length fragments marked from the same primer beginning to a known base ending were migrated through a charged medium as short fragments moved faster than large fragments four patterns emerged which identified the positions of the know base. Similar details for all the four base patterns were aligned and matched to show the positions in the sequence of all the 4 bases ... exceedingly neat and clever ... amazing chemistry ... thank you Fred ... have you got it?

2015 Nick Lane, via Peter Mitchell, suggested that the source of life came not from Darwin's primordial soup and electric storms but rather from the proton gradients in deep thermal vents at the bottom of the oceans as concentrated energy dispersed according to the laws of physics ... no magic, just a continuous application of the Laws of Physics & Chemistry ... mitochondrial DNA, evolved from a proton gradient and powered evolution?   

Bewildering bafflement?

But reflect ... maybe the process was dead simple but it was the detail that was beyond our ken ... and remember DNA was not the start ... there was a 'before DNA' ... maybe there was even a 'before' before the big bang? ... but, perhaps, the big bang could be a propitious launch pad for the imaginations of todays Biological Historians? ... think about it ... just one continuum ... an expanding universe - temperature gradients - the 2nd law of thermodynamics - hydrogen - stars - galaxies - periodic tables - planets - proton gradients - replicating molecules - RNA - DNA - proteins - bacteria - archaea - eukaryotic cells - plants - animals ... and big brained bi-pedals with free hands ... and such folk were mobile & horny ... social animals ... which explained a lot ... and there was a lot to explain!

So ... paying good shekels for our DNA analysis was just a bit of fun but we then had to force ourselves to consider that the ‘results’ were only mildly interesting for individuals because our DNA threads through everyone ... we could not tell very much about the deep individual identity of our ancestors ... nor did it matter.

So let's be clear, when all was said and done (and, as usual, there was much more said than done) our analysis only revealed something about the folk who were alive today who –

had had their DNA analysed with current methods and

had joined the 'Ancestry' public database and

had a common ancestor with each other 

... so all that this 'analytical' malarkey revealed was the whereabouts of these there such folk when their tests were done ... if you follow?

And to cap the lot every single one of us had the same common ancestor if you only go back a little ... so beware of false prophets ... but also be excited and remember that there were migrations and ghosts from the past hidden in our genomes just waiting to be discovered ... we thought we'd got it? ... but admitted that it hurt our brain.

British DNAGreat Britain a Nation of Marvelous Migrant Mongrels         

By 2015 DNA analysis of the human genome had got better & better and a special sample of the proper hoi polloi was statistically examined for wispy fingerprints of the ghosts from the past.

Folk were selected for testing who had 4 grandparents who were all born locally ... this was an attempt to exclude more recent waves of immigration and target a sample of 'relatively' static DNA. Reference samples from 10 European countries were also included.

DNA was inherited in chunks which included individual neutral 'snips' (SNPs, Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) which didn't die or lie ... they 'hitchhiked' on the back of naturally selected useful genes and survived like 'spandrels' ... these neutral differences could identify an original ancestor. Time scales could be estimated statistically from the number of genetic changes per average generation of 28 years. Things were getting exciting.

 500,000 'snip' variables on each genome were targeted and from the statistical analysis seventeen genetically similar 'groups' were identified as subtly different from the pool ... only in conclusion were the results plotted geographically on the map by grandparent location.

There was no homogenous mix but rather distinct genetic clusters of folk more similar to each other than to the rest of the country. Patterns emerged which were long lost webs of family trees ...?

Such differences were very small, enhanced by lack of mobility but blurred by hornyness ... untidy & convoluted ... overall it was clearly a Clusterfuck, we were all cousins, but all slightly different and clustered ... which was informative but not definitive.

Wot about geography or language or culture?

The Gene PoolGet your head around Population Statistics & some Mysterious Surprises -

Blurred Racial Identities - each racial group preserved 85% of the variations in the gene pool.
The tribal Celts, Picts, Scots, Angles, Saxons were mere indefinable samples from messy globs of DNA ... not a homogeneous blend but grainy, where high resolution analysis could sift out some wispy fingerprints which were a great leveler, less tainted than the writ word, and a viable truthful record of the outrageous Clusterfuck.
Celtic clusters settled in the western extremities but such cultural displacements were not genetically similar.
Romans left little genetic trace, they ruled from afar but recruited their armies of horny troops from Gaul not Rome.
Anglo-Saxons came settled and integrated in the big south east and left a large enduring genetic and cultural legacy in language and common law ... they liked it in our green & pleasant land and the girls were cute and exciting.
Vikings from Norway settled in the far North and fully integrated there but the Viking Danes further south kept themselves to themselves and left little trace of the geography of Danelaw ... there was not much rape & pillage and there was plenty of space for separate development.   

Clearly in the broad picture we were all mixed up, just one interbreeding species, Homo Sapiens, which made genetic identities figments. At high resolution genetics showed that people were different and these differences clustered according to geography & culture but not according to race.

Individual folk inherited via their parents a unique random sample of genes from the universal Homo Sapiens gene pool and individual folk fed back via their surviving kids a different unique random sample of genes into the pool.

Blind Watchmakers - only 21,000 genes coded for only 20 amino acids but each gene interacted with others in different locations at different times in different teams to produce proteins & immense complexity ... happenings in metabolism & physiology were dynamic & contemporaneous & interconnected & interactive & interdependent with emergent feedback.  Complex Adaptive Systems did not involve Determinism because Effects became Causes.

Umpteen unknown ancient happenings may or may not be causes of effects, and effects themselves may or may not be causes of brand new happenings.

Misunderstood Lineages - DNA analysis accurately identified our close relatives but mobile & horny behaviours made genealogical direct lines of inheritance meaningless ... everyone was about a 30th cousin as lineages were more like networks of mixtures ... sprawling all over the place ... The Clusterfuck ensured Lineages became Entangled as we all married our cousins and were descended from the same person many times over.

If your Dad married his Cousin, your Great Aunt once removed would be your Mum.

Gene Pool Evolution - after 10 generations 50% of ancestral DNA has died out of your lineage. We all have far less in common with our direct ancestors than we think and far more in common with everyone in our gene pool.
Genetic variations died out, drifted or prospered in the gene pool ... harmful traits died out and made space in the gene pool for survivors ... which reappeared, later in individuals, as ghosts from the past. Population Statistics traced the Past flowing in and the Future flowing out of individuals as the pool was a great evolutionary dustbin The gene pool evolved and created brains, language & technology ... and an meme pool of increasing survival 'know how'.

Things went wrong all the time & the average 'know how' of your kids was less than your own but the more intelligent of your kids had more surviving babies & brought the average 'know how' of your grand kids up ... and up.

Gene/Culture Coevolution - by comparing different genomes we can relate different bits of DNA with different behavioural traits and estimate when such behaviour became established in the gene pool ...

Lactose tolerance was a cultural survival aid, a well researched genetic trait appearing in European Homo Sapiens around 5,000 to 10,000BC as cultivation and animal husbandry was established ...

Peacock's tails were a route to gene survival because of their remarkable effect on peahens ... but contrary to popular belief blue eyed blondes & pale skins were a route to survival via Vitamin D ...

Successful survival behaviour became assimilated into hard wired genetics as The Baldwin Effect explained how Nature & Nurture became indistinguishable.

Pre-existing inherited variants with survival advantages in the local environment always increase in population frequency in the gene pool as alternative variants die out; thus changing the environment which then feeds back and influences the survival chances of any new variant.

Counterintuitive Statistics -

99.9% of our DNA is identical but that other 0.1% our genome accounts for almost 6.5 million DNA base differences which make us all individually unique.

99% of all species that ever existed went extinct ... we progressed one funeral at a time. The chances were that 'on average' our children were less intelligent than we were but the chances were that 'on average' our grandchildren were more intelligent than we were.

everyone alive had a mum & dad who also had a mum & dad ... each generation doubled the number of ancestors ... exploding backwards ... do the maths ... back in the time of Charlemagne there were 137,438,593,472 folk involved ... around 750AD your own family tree would contain 137 billion folk ... impossibly more than all the folk that have ever lived on the planet ... say 113 billion.

600 years ago in Europe there was one individual alive to whom all Europeans could be back traced ... we all had a relatively recent common ancestor. 1,000 years ago 20% of living Europeans left no ancestors who are alive today, their lines petered out. 1,000 years ago 80% of living Europeans who did leave ancestors who are alive today were the ancestors of everyone alive today, all lines coalesced on every individual in the 80%. Lineages were coalescing not exploding.

3,400 years ago in the World the most recent common ancestor of every Homo Sapiens alive today was alive ... we were all descended from this single being.

5,000 years ago there were 5 million Homo Sapiens in 2025 there will be 9 billion and 10,000 years ago at dawn of agriculture & husbandry Homo Sapiens and their domesticated animals accounted for <1% of the total biomass of vertebrate animals; today 98% ... Homo Sapiens, was an explosively successful species. 

30,000 years ago our ancestral Europeans and Neanderthals were together in The Clusterfuck ... Neanderthals were cousins, close enough to interbreed.

100,000 years ago we were all Africans ... everyone had a common ancestor in Africa ... and before that ... our common ancestor was in the trees ... and before that ... in the sea.

99.9% of the 3 billion nucleotide bases in DNA were the same in everyone but the 0.1% were the 3 million bases that were different, these interacted with all the others and made more different differences ... not one gene for one disease but dozens of interacting small differences in a well disguised interactive network with context dependency and where the local environment were also players.   

85% of the job opportunities for the youngsters in 2030 haven't been invented yet

1 individual had 3 billion base code differences which were inherited and each individual acquired, through nothing other than chance, at least 100 mutations that were unique to him & her ... once upon a time, a long time ago, we were all a bit of bacterial DNA.

The whole shebang & caboodle was accounted for by the Laws of Physics & Chemistry ... but constant change, conflict, complexity & scarcity ... made the genetic outcomes perplexing ... and more.

'It was easy to fork out a bit of money for a DNA analysis but very difficult to understand the complex genetic pathways, the epigenetic interactions with the environment and the statistics that under lay the risks & uncertainties in the population dynamics'.

So there we have it, Family Historians became Biological Historians, they discovered that Family Trees were not Trees at all they were Messes as Lineages became Sprawls ... individuals were nothing special but Homo Sapiens was miraculous ... but then individual folk also realised their most cherished and exciting dreams -

'we were of Royal Descent after all' ... because everybody was ...

'we had Black Sheep in the family for sure' ... because everyone did ...

and wot about my Neanderthal traits -

yes, around 2.7%, 81 million base codes, 'we were descended from Neanderthals' ... because every European was ...

... but it was always great fun to try and find some of the inevitable interconnections!   

DNA WhirligigSo tune in and listen on to hear about the survival value hidden in our own individual DNA; 'know how' embedded in a code we hardly even glimpsed until 2001.

Biological History didn't lie and was never forgotten, it was immortalised in DNA. Our very own DNA was just a random sample from the Homo Sapiens gene pool ... nevertheless the genes constructed our brains which were infected by memes. For just three score years & ten, we borrowed such survival 'know how' for a lifetime of experiments in our imaginations ... and we tested out in reality just a few of the most promising candidates. Most random experiments must fail and only the survivors supercharge adaptations necessary to cope as the environment changes ... these survivors we pass on to the next generation as genes for life and memes for behaviour.

Only now do we dimly begin to understand ... our DNA was not luck, nor designed by Bishops, Princes, Generals or Bureaucrats ... it was not manna from heaven ... Darwin's natural selection gave us miraculous tools inherited free gratis & for nowt from our ancestors but it was always the craftsmen of each generation who created new 'know how' to pass on to their own bewildered grandchildren ... only in this way could the kids adapt to the inevitable excitement of their passions & the inevitable fear of their horrors.

Everyone should pay their 50 squids at the door and have their DNA analysed ... and then try to understand wot on earth it all means ... ?

George BirchallThe Birchall Name

The Birchall ancestral lineage was almost meaningless and certainly not meaningful ... sure, the more similar the DNA the more closely were the owners related ... but the muddle made fathoming lineage well nigh impossible -

every generation the name risked change as spellings & sounds were unstable

none Birchall mates always supplied 50% of the DNA of the next generation

very very soon we were all marrying not so distant cousins 

... all was a bugger's muddle ...

The names were rampant - Birchall, Birtles, Birtle, Burcham, Bircher, Birdsall, Barnhill, Birch, Birdwell, Birchard ... Birchwall, Birchal, Burchall, Birchell, Birchill, Berchall, Barchall, Brichall, Byrchall, Birchale, Bruchall, Bircholl, Borchall, Birchwell, Birchwale, Birchhill, Buirchell, Brichalli, Berchalli, Borchalli, Buirchill, Birchly, Burchal, Birchel, Bruchal, Borchal, Berchal, Birchol, Barchal, Brichal ... and called names didn't help, everyone was a Tom, Dick or Harry ... and worse still Toms, Dicks & Harrys ran in families.

Birchall was a locational or habitational English surname, from Biekel, the original spelling of the Lancashire village of Birtle, first recorded in the Pipe Rolls of the county in 1246.

Or from Birchill in Derbyshire or Birchills in Staffordshire?

The meaning of the Birchall place name and is Birch Hill from the pre 7th century Olde English birc - hyl.

These surnames were given for identification of somebody who had left his original village and moved elsewhere. Inevitably surnames became requirements when governments introduced personal taxation and infamous Poll Taxes ... so surnames unsurprisingly changed!

The first record of the family name is John de Birchall de Birtles. This was dated 1401, in the rolls of Gawsworth District of East Cheshire, during the reign of King Henry IVth of England, 1399 - 1413.

The earliest wills at Chester were from Richard Birchall, of Parr, 1581. James Birchall, of Winwick; 1591. Geoffrey Birchall, of Croft, in Winwick, 1614.

Perhaps the Birchalls came down to Cheshire from Lancashire. In 1891 69% of all Birchalls in the census were living in Lancashire.

Perhaps East Cheshire Birchalls originally trekked in from Staffordshire ... there was Birchall Meadows near Leek, and a Grange at Birchall in 1246, and Big Birchall at Chedderton, and a Great Birchall farm of Dieulacres Abbey, and a Birchall Horse Mill, and by 1833 there was horse racing at Birchall Dale ... 

The Birchalls also traveled afar ... but not many to France!

Sandbach CrossesFrom Land to Mill

Sandbach, around this time, was a developing hive of activity and the names on the High Street in the 1841 census, were mirrored in the Trade Directories, Pigot's of 1822 listed Robert Birchall, the Blacksmith, John Dickinson, the Shoe Manufacturer, George Furnival, the Plumber & Glazier, John Steele, the Grocer, John Stringer, the Builder ... and John Bull & Co, Silk Manufacturers ... was that where they all worked?

For sure, way way, back ancient Birchall ancestors worked on the land, because everybody worked on the land and, for certain, some bright Birchall sparks left the land and picked up skills, and we know some of the Birchall lineage were bright because they had surviving descendants. We also know for certain some of the lineage acquired woodworking skills, which always seemed to be in demand ... the younger gang of our Birchalls, George William, Edward & William were all joiners ... the older gang of our Birchalls, James, John & Robert/James were silk throwsters ...

We know that after John Clayton started throwing silk in 1752 many folk gravitated to the silk mills in Congleton ... there were good jobs to be had ... perhaps like so many others before & since, Robert/James was looking for lucrative work to support a wife & family ... and perhaps he found it at the Brook Mill just off High Street where the Arclid Brook flows down to join the Wheelock?

John Barker has produced a wonderful website about the Birchall/Birchenoughs but so far the link from his lot to our lot has been elusive ... but we can imagine the trek from the fields to the mills so interestingly described by John ... perhaps from the rich agricultural crescent of the North Shropshire moraines;  Wrenbury, Audlem, Madeley up to the Congleton mills & Buglawton via Barthomley, the Talke Pits and ancient Astbury; and then indirectly down the Dane to Middlewich via the Arclid Brook, the Wheelock and Sandbach, with some stopovers on the railways in Crewe ... a fascinating genetic migration of hard working folk looking for jobs ... perhaps if we fail to follow the route via the rotting records of baptisms, marriages & burials in the parish churches, we can, for sure, follow the indelible marks of the DNA unwittingly left behind by the Birchalls ... because that DNA is alive and kicking today ...

When we have the time we will understand the Birchall DNA trace from the land to the mill ... because the DNA of everyone made this trip ... QED?

A good story came from John Barker ...


Reads -

'A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes' by Adam Rutherford 2017

(our genomes tell the history of our mobile & horny species, a story which connects our history to our future) 

'Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past' by David Reich 2018

(migration patterns, diversity, mixing, ghosts in our DNA)

'Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are' by Robert Plomin 2018

(99% similar and 1% different for the future, test them out, don't try to mould they may work)

'Our Human Story' by Louise Humphrey and Chris Stringer 2018

(hominin diversity, sapiens survival, fascinating cast of characters)

'DNA Is Not Destiny: The Remarkable, Completely Misunderstood Relationship between You and Your Genes' by Steven J Heine 2018

(genes create life but do not control it, you can change your DNA destiny. You can change the environment which influences the survival chances of your genes)



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