What's hidden in your chromosomes?

DNA & Genealogy

Facial composition brings convict ancestor to life

Family Reunion

Earlier this month I attended the 19th annual Bartlett Family Reunion in outer-suburban Melbourne.  It is a lively gathering of descendants of my Tasmanian convict ancestor William Bartlett.

My mother and my sister attend each year, but as I currently live interstate, I hadn't attended for quite a few years.  I am glad I made the effort this year.

There was the usual catching up, chatting, eating, sharing old photos and family tree information, and updates to William Bartlett's long list of descendants.


DNA cousins

New this year was an interest in DNA testing for family history research purposes, and of course I had my laptop out demonstrating how it all works.

I displayed a sample DNA kit to show how simple the test is, and I explained how we had found two new Bartlett cousins (2nd cousins once removed to Mum) this year through our DNA testing.

One new DNA test was ordered by a cousin on the day, and perhaps some more will follow during the year.


Convict image

But probably the most exciting new development in relation to the Bartlett family history this year was the display of a professionally-created facial composition of our shared convict ancestor, William Bartlett (below):



My 4th cousin, Alan Bartlett, obtained this fantastic image from his friend Adrian Paterson, the creator of F.A.C.E., the world's first automated facial composition and editing Offender Identification System.

F.A.C.E. is now used in 40 countries and over 100 sites worldwide, and produces full-colour, high-resolution images from physical descriptions.  It has been proven over time to be very accurate, with many thousands of confirmed offender identifications (including the Bali bombers).

As well as several Commendations, Adrian has also been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his tremendous contribution to police work.

Read more about Adrian Paterson and his F.A.C.E. system here and here.


William Bartlett

William Bartlett was born in 1801 in Norton Bavant, Wiltshire, England.  In 1830 he was convicted of machine-breaking in the agricultural riots in Wiltshire, and he was tried and sentenced to 7 years transportation to Van Dieman's Land.

Below is a copy of William Bartlett's physical description from his convict record, the content of which was used to create the image above.  Adrian was also shown photos of some of William Bartlett's descendants, to highlight possible family resemblances.


William Bartlett's physical description from his convict record


William arrived in Hobart on the ship 'Eliza' in 1831.  He was a husband, and a father of 4 children back in Wiltshire, and his family were eventually given permission to join him in Hobart, arriving in 1835.  William was given a free pardon in February 1836, and ten years later the family left Tasmania and settled in Victoria.


The facial composition above, created by Adrian Paterson, is the closest we have to a photo of our ancestor, William Bartlett.  And the colour and detail really brings him to life!


Now that we can already build surrogate (partial) DNA profiles for our absent ancestors (using the Lazarus tool on Gedmatch to identify common DNA segments in descendants) and we can already use DNA markers to predict some physical traits (eg. eye colour), perhaps it won't be too far into the future before genetic genealogists will be able to readily produce facial compositions for those ancestors for whom no physical descriptions exist!


The 20th Bartlett Family Reunion will be celebrated in February next year, and I certainly hope to be there!




Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • No comments found
Add comment