Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Story of Burned Letter

Does anyone have documentation or knowledge of a story that after James Wanlass (1825 – 1895), emigrated from Scotland to America and became established in Utah, he received a letter from relatives back in Scotland? He allegedly was so angry that he tossed the letter into the fireplace, exclaiming that “They didn’t need me then, so they don’t need me now!” 

 I first heard this story from distant relatives. Then last year, my aunt (Audrey Bush), mentioned the story before she died. I wonder who else knows the story and what it may mean. James knew he had been abandoned by his family. He didn't know who his parents were, but there have been rumors that he had a sister. Did he know about any siblings? Was he resentful that they might be contacting him after all those years of abandonment? Does anyone have information about siblings for James Wanlass?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

James Wanless Grave Marker

My ancestor, James Wanlass, is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, in Utah, USA. His wife Margaret Neilson is buried next to him. Although we have DNA evidence tying him to an existing Wanlass family in Edinburgh, Scotland, we still haven't identified his parents or other ancestors. It must be time for more research to solve the mystery of his birth!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Donar of Wanlass DNA Dies

Irvin Doyle Wanlass, a direct male-to-male descendant of James Wanlass (1825 - 1895), died July 22, 2010 at age 79. He was intensely interested in solving the James Wanlass mystery. He donated the DNA which proved a genetic link to a group of Wanlesses in Scotland. He used to make phone calls about every month to check on research progress. We miss getting those phone calls. jws

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

William Wanless (1792-1862) NOT James's Father

In new Family Search, William Wanless (1792 – 1862) is shown as the father of our James Wanlass (1825-1995). We know that relationship is false and it has been appropriately disputed by “Sharon Wilbur1” who is a descendant of William Wanless. It’s true that Murrell H. Cornish (now deceased) submitted a record to the Pedigree Resource File, showing that our James Wanlass (1825) was the son of William Wanless and “Hannah Wanless.” Elsewhere in the Pedigree Resource File that “Hannah Wanless” is shown to be “Hannah Tattersall.” From research described on the WanlessWeb site, the name “Tattersall” should have been “Hattersley.”
It appears that “Hanna Tattersall’s” maiden name was Ann Henson (1780-1825) who married William Hattersley in 1808. Her husband died in 1816. Her second marriage was to William Wanless in 1817. They indeed had a son James Wanless in 1824, but it was not our James Wanlass born 1825. The 1851 census shows William and Ann’s unmarried son James Wanless living with his father William and his step sister Mary Ann in Hunslet, Leeds, Yorkshire, England.
Proof comes from the 1851 census, which shows our James Wanlass was living in Newbattle, Edinburgh, Scotland with his wife Margaret Neilson and their three children. So we can be sure that William Wanless and “Hannah Tattersall Wanless” were not the parents of our James Wanlass, despite the listing in new Family Search.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New DNA Lab Report!

On November 10, 2008 we received a report of an expanded DNA test. Whereas the original test was on only 25 Y-chromosome markers, this new test was done on 37 markers. Only one of the 37 markers did not match perfectly between a male descendant of the miner James Wanlass (1825-1895) and a male descendant of the baker James Wanless (1827-1877).

DNA samples came from Irvin who is a 4th generation descendant of the miner and Robert who is a 5th generation descendant of the baker. If the miner and the baker (who both lived in the Edinburgh area of Scotland) were cousins, their common grandfather would have been in the 6th or 7th generation, from our DNA donors. The DNA evidence suggests that there is about an 80% chance that the unknown grandfather of the miner and the unknown grandfather of the baker are the same person. See the DNA report at:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coloring Book History for James Wanlass (1825)

A coloring story book for the descendant children of James Wanlass (1825-1895) is now available online (see link below). It was created for the 2008 J. Wanless Southwick family reunion.

The last page is a table showing James Wanlass's family, including which of his children stayed in Scotland, which died in infancy, and which emigrated from Scotland to America with him and his wife, Margaret Neilson. James Wanlass had about 77 grandchildren born in the 19th Century, so he must have many thousands of descendants now. We hope this coloring book will help them get to know him. We also need them to do research to help solve the mystery of James Wanlass’s ancestry. Please share your ideas and comments through this blog.

The 16 page coloring book is a PDF document (0.69 MB) available at

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Photo of James Wanlass (1925-1895)

One of James Wanlass's great-granddaughters brought me a photo of James Wanlass that I'd never seen before. In this photo, he seems to have his eyes open. Thank you Bonnie Wanlass Ellis!
This new photo and the only other one that we have of him may have been taken the same day. The clothing seems to be the same, but one of the two photos may be reversed, because his hair seems to be combed in opposite directions in each photo.
...Does anyone know where the original (or the negative) of this photo may be?