Birchall DNA



How to study Family History ...

Our Mum died at 103 years old, john p was 72 ... during weekly visits to the Nursing Home ancient Eda could only manage to talk about the long long ago ... but she told fascinating stories about Granddad Edward which were almost unknown to us and posed burning questions ... and soon there would be no one around to answer. To help the conversation to flow we started to Google and make some notes ... and our very own family story started to grow and grow ... we had no idea what had gone on ... but, perhaps, some of the shenanigans might be useful?  

Earlier when our own curious youngsters had asked ... who was Aunty Clare? ... we had made an effort to map a 'family tree' on a roll of old faded wall paper. We told the kids how the tree grew as best we could but it wasn't very good.

'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.

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 our feet rather than above our head ... and re-telling 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?

Have a look at the Birchall story ... you'll find a maze of memorabilia and you never know you may discover some useful insights ... and 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) - john p's maternal great grandfather left a legacy of investments in chemicals and the inspiration of 'education & compound interest'.

Edward's Story touched all the economic happenings in Cheshire which led to, and were consequences of, the industrial revolution ... 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 and 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 and 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 moral sentiments & synergies of specialisation & scale that he had hammered out at his forge ... but they were all survivors and coped well ...

Industrial RevolutionWeaver Refining Co Ltd -

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) - john p's 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.

Voyage of the RangitikieJohn 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' ...

John searched for betterment for his family in the Antipodes.  

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

 Keith Garnett - a fettler who also played banjo and trombone and knew a thing or two about team work and getting things done.

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

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

Adam RutherfordBirchall DNA - a deep story emerges ...

Yellowing piles of ancients decaying parchments were always interesting but happenings often defied description as words always seemed to have different meanings to different folk ... a quagmire. And some wag pointed out that the parchments were often works of fiction ... and often revised on a whim ... and sometimes even testimony under oath in court was subject to obfuscation. Then there was the burning question of wot happened to folk before they could write? And further wot happened to the folk who couldn't write?

But Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid was different ... DNA built mind boggling complexity but at least we were certain of one thing ... DNA could not lie ... for certain DNA 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 ... a cooperative team effort which could not be faked. Such apparent certainty was a useful start point for Biological Historians ... at least somethings were fathomable ... and as Darwin himself suggested, 'light could be thrown on the origin of man and his history' - 

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

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

DNA made animals mobile & horny ...

DNA made some animals experience excitement & fear ...

DNA made the girls defend investments from parasites & predators ...

DNA made some species which developed big brains & manipulating hands which sussed out social synergies of specialisation & scale ... and cottoned on to agriculture, husbandry & trade ... which shaped our modern world.

This was scientific 'know how' which gave very big clues about how Birchalls behaved ... but very small clues about Birchall identities.

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

Folk had universal emotions of excitement & fear but individual beliefs to make sense of evolutionary happenings & intelligent design.

The Entangled Clusterfuck

In this way Family History for us decrepit Birchalls was a fun story about the memorable outcomes of natural selection ... the copy/vary/select process of DNA ... we, just like everybody else, dipped into the homo sapiens gene pool and bagged a unique collection of combinations & mixes of pre-existing variants which had just happened to differentially survive. But instead of a clear linear genealogy things became a mess ... as our cousins multiplied our pedigrees folded in on themselves as branches looped back and became networks ... 'an entangled clusterfuck' ... everybody became enmeshed in a web from a changing gene pool.

History as writ was a mere sliver of a gigantic history of a species which involved at least ... 3.4 billion years of evolution on planet earth ... and 13.6 billion years of evolution from the Big Bang on? 

But and there was a big but. The Birchalls, just like everyone else, believed in a very familiar view of our world, a 'Weltanschauung', a world shaped by plausible, deliberate, rational, purposeful, intentional planning ... a God behind every tree ... all things bright & beautiful the lord God made them all. But we were wrong ... we discovered, very recently, that 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, and, at the same time, and again, just like everyone else, the Birchalls were universally mobile & horny ... and universally excitable & fearful ... and all the Birchall girls danced backwards!

All this malarkey made Family History both infuriatingly difficult and muddled ... but great fun ... an entangled clusterfuck.

Particular gene variants made us all individually unique and nothing special ... but the changing gene pool which defined our species was special because the pool was full of survivors from the past ... it told an unimpeachable story about the past ... but told us little about the future ... the history of the gene pool was fascinating ... from the evolution of the gene pool we could learn ... we could learn about survival ... if you follow the drift!?

So DNA analysis was just a bit of fun but remember the ‘results’ were only mildly interesting for individuals because DNA did not tell you the identity of your ancestors.
The analysis only revealed where the folk who were alive today –

who had had their DNA tested and

had joined the Ancestry public database and

had a common ancestor with you 

... where they currently lived ... we thought we'd got it?

And to cap the lot every single one of us had a common ancestor ... so beware of false prophets.

Birchall DNAWot's DNA?   

Counterintuitive Science and breathtaking progress -

1859 Darwin's natural selection acted on differences, useless variations were slowly sifted out, lethal variations didn't reproduce ...
(copy/vary/select) -

1866 Mendel's genes were distinct/lawful/redundant
(units of inheritance - segregation/assortment/dominance)

DNA coding was 'stored' in 23 chromosomes in the cell nucleus, 22 pairs (97% of the DNA), one set from mum & one set from dad, these pairs were then 'mixed' into the one set in the testes & ovaries ... the two sets one from mum & one from dad were then 'recombined' at fertilisation. 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, mitochondria, outside the nucleus, was inherited only from mum. 

1953 DNA
(unzips & rebuilds sequences of A-T C-G bases which synthesize amino acids which build the proteins of metabolism & physiology)

1962 Eukaryotic Cells a breakthrough from Single cell Bacteria & Archaea to Plants & Animals

Stanier & Neil - 'The Concept of Bacterium'
(all life builds from existing cells, and all cells originate from cell division, and cells specialise)

2001 Fred Sanger & Venter map the human Genome
(97% junk, and just 21,000 genes work in teams and generate phenotype & behavioural traits) 

 two copies of each gene reside in alleles
(diversity comes from copying errors, sex & alleles ... natural selection acts on differences)

Proton gradients Peter Mitchell/Nick Lane

But remember DNA was not the start ... there was a 'before DNA' ... may be there was even a 'before' before the big bang? ... but, perhaps, the big bang could be a propitious start point for todays Biological Historian? ... a continuum - expanding universe - the 2nd law - hydrogen - stars - galaxies - periodic tables - planets - proton gradients - RNA - DNA - Eukaryotic cells - plants - bacteria - animals - ... and big brained bipedals with free hands ... and folk, mobile & horny ... 

Surprise surprise -

DNA can accurately identify our close relatives ... but everyone on earth is about our 30th cousin ... everyone has a common ancestor and is descended from someone 3,000 years ago  

the chances are that on average our children are less intelligent than we are but the chances are that on average our grandchildren are more intelligent than we are ... statistics

after 10 generations 50% of ancestral DNA has died out ... we have far less in common with our ancestors than we think and far more in common with everyone in 'our' gene pool ... it is the gene pool which evolves  

everyone alive in the 10th century who left ancestors who are alive today is the ancestor of everyone alive today ... everyone is special which means no one is special.

mobile & horny behaviours make genealogical direct lines through the gene pool meaningless ... more like globs of mixing & interaction

99% of genes similar 1% different

99% of species extinct


The 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 supplied as much as 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 ... DNA which is alive and kicking today ...

When we have the time we will prove this Birchall DNA trace from the land to the mill ... 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

(genomes tell the history of our mobile & horny species and now history tells us about genes, the story connects our history to our future, a portal to the past and the 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 1% differences for the future, test them out, don't try to mould them)

'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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