A Kiwi in search of her Irish, English & Scottish tribes

Tag: DNA

DNA to the Max ~ Sydney 2019

I’ve just spend three days attending the DNA to the Max event in Sydney, part of Unlock the Past’s DNA Down Under roadshow.  My verdict: phenomenal!

Blaine Bettinger at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Blaine Bettinger at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Headlining the event was Blaine Bettinger, one of the US’s top genetic genealogists, ably supported by our local Australasian experts.  The topics ranged from the ethics involved in DNA testing, to visual phasing and chromosome mapping. While there were some talks aimed at beginners, most were of intermediate to advanced level. The panel discussions in the last session of each day were brilliant.

Here are my main takeways from the three days:

1. Step away from the small segments

Any match under 7 centiMorgans (cM) lies in what Bettinger terms “the Danger Zone”. Be cautious of a match between 7 and 10 cM, and feel pretty safe with anything over 10 cM.  The caveat though, is that those 10 cM can’t be made up of several small segments –  it should be one block, or segment, on a chromosome.

However, say you have a connection showing on Ancestry’s ThruLines, but it’s with a small segment of 6 cM.  If the paper trail and documentation are sound, it’s definitely worth pursuing the match.  Bettinger says: “You may be genealogically related, but not genetically related.”  So, test to see if that small segment is valid, or just random noise.  Either way, you may have found a cousin.

2. Take up stamp collecting

The testing of artefacts such as stamps and envelopes for DNA is becoming cheaper and more viable.  Louise Coakley’s presentation on the options available now, and what may be available in the future, was eye-opening. There’s no guarantee that your grandmother licked that stamp or envelope herself, so the DNA found may not be from her, but it could be worth the punt to test any letters she sent.

totheletterDNA offers a testing service, including an initial check to see if the sample is suitable for further analysis. Whether the sample is viable, often depends on how the item has been stored.  So break out the acid-free archival pockets and preserve those letters!  I’m off to check out my great aunt’s letter (and envelope), and see what other letters we may have stored away.

3. Get informed consent

If you’re asking family (or strangers) to take a DNA test, make them aware of possible issues.  Just because you’re not requesting a health test right now, doesn’t mean that in three years time, your results won’t automatically indicate a possible health risk (which might be viewable by all).  This may not be a consideration for your 80 year old uncle, but it may be for a cousin in their 40s.

Do they want to know if something unexpected turns up? When Bettinger asked the audience to raise their hands if they had encountered a surprise with their DNA results, over 30 per cent of the 400 strong audience raised their hands.  Some surprises will be good, but it’s important to be aware (and make others aware) that some might not be so positive.

Are they happy to have their raw data transferred to other companies?  Ancestry has the largest database of testers, but they don’t offer a chromosome browser, so uploading to other sites can be useful for detailed analysis.  Get consent before you do.

The Facebook group Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques has an Informed Consent Agreement you can download and use.  (The group is a fantastic resource if you’re interested in DNA.)

Panel discussion at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Panel discussion at DNA Down Under in Sydney 2019

Unlock the Past did an amazing job putting together this event, and I was honoured to be selected as an Ambassador.  I loved catching up with genies I had met at Congress last year, and meeting people I follow on social media.

It’s likely Unlock the Past will hold another DNA Down Under roadshow in 2021 or 2022, so start saving (and testing).

In the meantime, the exciting news is that Blaine Bettinger and Angie Bush will be coming to New Zealand next year in March and April.  As far as I know they will be giving talks in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, with a three day workshop in Auckland at the end. If you’re interested in learning more about DNA analysis for family history, miss these at your peril!


Auckland Family History Expo ~ 2019

Auckland Libraries and the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) Computing Group organise the annual Auckland Family History Expo, as part of the August’s Family History month festivities here in New Zealand. Last time I attended was two years ago, so I was looking forward to this year’s event.

I flew up early Friday morning so I had time to catch up with a couple of friends, and also sneak in a first-time visit to NZSG’s Family Research Centre Library in Panmure. Fantastic resources there, including access to the main subscription websites, and the helpful volunteers chased down maps of early Auckland for me. I will be back!

The Expo opened with a reception on Friday afternoon, though I was a little late arriving due to accidentally getting onto a motorway and enduring barely moving traffic until I reached the next exit. Luckily I arrived in time for snacks! The two keynote speakers gave presentations after the reception – Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List) with Genealogy and the Internet, and Dr Nick Barratt (probably best known as the genealogical consultant for television programme Who Do you Think You Are?) on the Future of Family History.  What a fantastic choice of speakers!

Cyndi Ingle with her first talk on Saturday morning, Building a Digital Research Plan

Cyndi Ingle (in the shadows) with her first talk on Saturday morning

Saturday morning it was standing room only at Cyndi Ingle’s talk on Building a Digital Research Plan. It was to be a feature of the weekend, with many talks completely full (and ‘health and safety’ kicking in pretty swiftly so no standing at the back allowed for most of them).

I was on the Guild of One Name Studies stand for most of Saturday morning, helping Michelle Patient (who was also wearing an AncestryDNA hat for the weekend). It was fun explaining about the Guild and I think we may have even picked up a couple of new members.

Guild of One Name Studies and Ancestry DNA stands, with Michelle Patient

Guild of One Name Studies and AncestryDNA stands, with Michelle Patient

Saturday afternoon’s presentations I managed to see were Jan Gow on collating a reference library for your research, Raymon Naisbitt from Family Search on using their digital records, Nick Barratt on researching and writing your family history, and an entertaining and inspiring talk on maintaining an organised computer from Cyndi Ingle.

On Sunday morning my cousin and I arrived at the venue nice and early to snag a seat for Nick Barratt’s presentation on medieval and early modern sources for research, and straight afterwards Cyndi Ingle’s talk on hidden treasures in libraries, archives and digital collections.  DNA was the focus of several talks I attended –  one from Michelle Patient and two from Fiona Brooker. It was good to reinforce what I knew and also to pick up some great tips and tricks – all good preparation for the DNA Down Under event in Sydney in less than two weeks! (Pre-booking closes today for Sydney, tickets available on the door for Adelaide on Tuesday 20th, Melbourne and Canberra now booked out.)

Two resources I learnt more about:

  • Digital NZ‘s new feature that’s about to launch – the ability to upload your own images to stories you’ve created on Digital NZ. (I like the facility to specify copyright level, too.)
  • Andy Fenton (from NZ Micrographics) shared examples of organisations using Recollect, a platform to share stories and images. There are some wonderful sites out there – West Coast NZ History is a great example of a digital archive, run by volunteers.

I barely had any time to check out the stands, but was pleased to buy Family Tree Maker for the princely sum of $70 (which includes a free upgrade to the 2019 version). I’m hoping it will be useful in backing up data and documents I have on Ancestry, and provide some different charting options to what I have already.

Auckland Family History Expo - exhibtors hall

Auckland Family History Expo – exhibtors hall

Unfortunately I had to miss the last session of Sunday as I had a plane to catch (which was then delayed, grrr!) – the perils of booking flights before the programme was released.

Hats off to the organisers for a fabulous weekend, with an excellent range of presentations for all levels of family history researchers.  Apart from the talks, it was also fantastic to catch up with other genie friends, and I’m definitely keen to return next year.

Next up on the calendar is another Family History month event, Wellington’s Family History Open Day [PDF, 1.2MB] on Saturday 24th August in Lower Hutt.  The presentations on offer look like they’ll provide a great introduction to researching your family as well as highlighting new resources, and there’ll be plenty of assistance available from volunteers. Don’t miss Richard Foy’s talk at 2.30pm!

George Tunnecliffe of Taranaki — and Tean?

My 3 x great grandfather George Tunnecliffe (or Tunnecliff/Tunnicliff/Tunnicliffe) arrived in New Zealand aboard the Dinapore, landing in Auckland on 5th of August 1857. Three days later he married a fellow passenger, Elizabeth Barber, and they made their home in the province of Taranaki.

1857 marriage register entry for George Tunnecliff and Elizabeth Barber, Auckland [REF]

1857 marriage register entry for George Tunnecliff and Elizabeth Barber, Auckland (NZ Births, Deaths & Marriages 1857/929)

As their marriage occurred before 1880, the couple’s parents were not stated on the marriage registration. When George died in 1912, sadly neither of his parents were given on his death certificate (as is usual for a New Zealand death registration after 1875).

1912 death register entry for George Tunnicliffe, New Plymouth.

1912 death register entry for George Tunnicliffe, New Plymouth (NZ Births, Deaths & Marriages 1912/2739)

The only clue to his family was the name of the county were he was born — Staffordshire.

Born Staffordshire, England - detail from 1912 death register entry for George Tunnicliffe, New Plymouth.

Where born, from 1912 death register entry for George Tunnicliffe, New Plymouth  (NZ Births, Deaths & Marriages 1912/2739)

George’s birth year was around 1831, and so I searched for likely candidates baptised in Staffordshire around that time.  My next step was matching those baptisms to families in the England & Wales censuses of 1841 and 1851. I then tried to find each candidate in the 1861 census, reasoning that I could discount any that were still in England at that time. There was one family whose son George fitted the bill.

This was the family of farmer William Tunnecliff and Louisa Phillips of Tean in the parish of Checkley.  Their son George was born on 17th December 1831, and baptised two days later in the parish church, St Mary and All Saints.

1831 baptism of George Tunnicliffe, son of William and Louisa, on 19th December in the parish of Checkley

1831 baptism of George Tunnicliffe, son of William and Louisa, on 19th December in the parish of Checkley

William and Louisa had seven children baptised in Checkley:

  • William, born 1 Oct 1826, bap. 31 Oct 1826
  • Francis Nathaniel,  bap. 10 Mar 1828
  • Edward Philips,  bap. 6 Mar 1830
  • George, born 17 Dec 1831,  bap. 19 Dec 1831
  • Georgiana Louisa, born 11 Dec 1833, bap. 14 Dec 1833
  • Elizabeth Anne, born 18 Mar 1836,  bap. 21 Mar 1836
  • Bethuel, born 1 Jan 1840, bap. 20 Feb 1840

Bethuel was the name of Louisa’s grandfather, and it wasn’t hard to research back with such a distinctive name, but I had to stop! What if they weren’t my family?

 St Mary & All Saints Church, Checkley, Staffordshire ~ April 2012

St Mary & All Saints Church, Checkley, Staffordshire ~ April 2012

When I posted on this blog about visiting Checkley in 2012, a descendant of that family got in contact, saying she thought George might be a brother to her ancestor, Francis Nathaniel Tunnecliffe. Francis and his brother Edward both emigrated to Australia, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to think that their younger brother also emigrated to the other side of the world.

In 1841, the Tunnecliff family and three servants were living at Hall Green, Tean.1

William Tunnicliffe household at Hall Green, Tean, Checkley, 1841 England & Wales Census.

William Tunnecliff household at Hall Green, Tean, Checkley, 1841 England & Wales Census.

Five of their children were living with them.  Francis was elsewhere, and Georgiana had died in 1838, and was buried at St Michael’s churchyard in Rocester on 18 Apr 1838.2

By 1851, the household had changed markedly.  Son William had died in 1846, and William senior died the following year.

Louisa Tunnecliff household at Tean Villa, Checkley in 1851 England & Wales census

Louisa Tunnecliff household at Tean Villa, Checkley in 1851 England & Wales census

Louisa had moved to Tean Villa and four of her children were living with her: Edward, George, Elizabeth and Bethuel.3 Son Francis was living at Hall Green with his widowed aunt Maria Thweng, Louisa’s sister.4

Tean Villa, Upper Tean, and Hall Green, Between Teans, in the parish of Checkley, map 1888

Tean Villa and Hall Green, between Upper Tean and Lower Tean in the parish of Checkley (map of Lower Tean, Staffordshire, Old Victorian Ordnance Survey 6 inch to 1 mile Map (1888-1913)

More cousins came out of the woodwork — one descended from the Edward who went to Australia, and another more distant cousin who was descended from William Tunnecliffe’s uncle.

It may have been around the time I was doing assignments on probate records for IHGS, when I thought to look for wills for these Tunnecliffes, specifically Louisa. I hadn’t thought of it before, as none of my other “pre-New Zealand” folks had left much at all, let alone a will.

Louisa’s husband William had died in 1847 without leaving a will, but his father Francis (who died in 1854) left bequests to daughter-in-law Louisa, as well as his grandchildren.  Did this provide the funds for grandsons Francis, Edward and George to emigrate?

1879 will of Louisa Tunnecliff

Will of Louisa Tunnecliff, dated 20th November 1868, proved 10th March 1880, Lichfield.

Louisa Tunnecliff died in 1879, and in her will, apart from the proceeds of her estate to be split between her children,  she left explicit bequests of numerous items, notably anything large to family still living in England, and much smaller items such as jewellery to those living overseas. Louisa also bequeathed items to her children’s spouses, and their first-born daughters. Frustratingly, she did not name them!  George’s eldest daughter was bequeathed a gold watch and chain, and his wife, two small rings.

1879 will of Louisa Tunnecliff

Will of Louisa Tunnecliff, dated 20th November 1868, proved 10th March 1880, Lichfield.

Of most significance, there were three items in her bequests that presumably were gifts sent to her from family (or friends?) living overseas — an “Australian ring”, a “New Zealand Picture in Oil”, and a “Satchel and Cover from New Zealand”. Unless Francis and Edward had been gallivanting around New Zealand, I surmised that it was more likely a relation living in NZ would have sent the items from there, namely (hopefully?) my George.

After this, I happily researched the Tunnicliffe and Phillips families, reasonably sure that they were mine. Or was it wishful thinking? Louisa Phillips had come from a well-to-do family and it was a joy to finally discover an ancestral line that had land, houses, wills! At the back of my mind, I still wasn’t 100 per cent confident these were my families.

My parents first had their DNA tested in 2013 at FamilyTreeDNA, and later Ancestry. I haven’t delved too much into analysing their results so far, as I had plenty of paper trails to follow while I was living in England.  Still, I kept checking the matches, seeing if particular surnames cropped up, to confirm what I’d researched so far. Worryingly, no matches ever appeared that linked with the Tunnecliffe and Phillips families in England.

Until a couple of weeks ago when a fourth cousin match popped up for my mother — a descendant of Francis Nathaniel Tunnecliffe, one of the brothers who had emigrated to Australia. Eureka!  I still need a couple more matches to verify the connection, but it’s a great start.

DNA: the additional, essential tool in your genealogy toolbox - quote from Helen V. Smith

Later this month I’m off to Sydney to attend DNA Down Under, so I’ll get a chance to learn more about DNA analysis and how to combine it with my genealogical research.*  There are some inspiring local and international speakers, and I hope to catch up with a few genie mates as well (and the odd cousin or two!).  If you haven’t checked out the DNA Down Under six-city schedule, hurry!  Here are the pre-booking dates:

  • 7 August – Brisbane and Perth
  • 14 August – Adelaine, Canberra, Melbourne
  • 18 August – Sydney

There may be tickets available on the day, but to guarantee your ticket, get in and pre-book (plus you go in the draw for a heap of cool prizes)!

While there are presentations for all levels of DNA expertise (even none at all!), I’m planning to do a bit of swatting up beforehand, to get the most out of the event.  If you’re new to using DNA for genealogy, a good place to start is the International Society of Genetic Genealogy website.

*Disclaimer: As a DNA Down Under Ambassador, I get discounted entry for highlighting the event.

  1. 1841 England & Wales census, William Tunnecliff household; digital image, Ancestry.com; citing The National Archives,  Class: HO107; Piece 1006; Book: 10; Civil Parish: Checkley; County: Staffordshire; Enumeration District: 13; Folio: 38; Page: 1; Line: 6; GSU roll: 474630
  2. “England, Staffordshire, Church Records, 1538-1944,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QL7N-P58R : 13 December 2017), Georgina Louisa Tunnecliffe, 18 Apr 1838; citing Burial, Rocester, Staffordshire, England, United Kingdom, Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service, Stafford; FHL microfilm 101,022,137.
  3. 1851 England & Wales census, Louisa Tunnecliff household, Checkley; digital image, Ancestry.com; citing The National Archives, Class: HO107; Piece: 2009; Folio: 559; Page: 4; GSU roll: 87412.
  4. 1851 England & Wales census, Francis Tunnecliff household, Checkley; digital image, Ancestry.com; citing The National Archives, Class: HO107; Piece: 2009; Folio: 597; Page: 1; GSU roll: 87412.

Family History Month 2019

August is Family History Month in New Zealand and Australia, and there’s quite a bit going on for both hardened researchers and those just starting out. Here are a few events happening in the Wellington region and a couple further afield.

City and Harbour, Wellington NZ

City and Harbour, Wellington NZ 4073, from family collection, date unknown

Getting more out of your DNA results
> Saturday 27th July: 10am – 4pm
> Kapiti Community Centre, 15 Ngahina St, Paraparamumu
Just sneaking in at the end of July, a sort of pre-launch for Family History Month, is Kapiti DNA Interest Group’s event with Michelle Patient and Lorna Henderson. All welcome. $15, book by emailing DNADay@KapitiGen.org.

NZSG: Kilbirnie
Talk: Bolton Cemetery and the Motorway with Gabor Toth (Local & NZ History Specialist)
> Thursday 1st August: 10am
> Matairangi Room, ASB Sports Centre, 72 Kemp Street, Kilbirnie, Wellington
All welcome (visitors $2).

Finding Families in New Zealand – Legacy Family Tree Webinar
> Wednesday 7th August: 2pm NZST / 12pm AEST
Too cold to go out? Stay wrapped up warm at home and learn how to use electoral rolls and school records to discover more of your family history, from Kiwi genealogist Fiona Brooker. Free. Register for the webinar

Auckland Family History Expo
> Friday 9th August: 5pm – 8.30pm
> Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th August: 8.30am – 6pm
> Fickling Convention Centre , 546 Mt Albert Rd, Three Kings.
Presenters Nick Barratt (UK) and Cyndi Ingle (USA) are joined by some great speakers from around NZ and Australia, plus there’s also an exhibition with genealogy-related companies and groups. There is a welcome reception and two presentations on the Friday evening ($15 charge). Entry on Saturday and Sunday is free.

NZSG: Porirua
Talk: Using Porirua Library genealogy resources
> Wednesday 14th August: 7.30pm
> Genealogy Section, Porirua Library, entry opposite Harvey Norman Carpark, Wi Neera Drive, Porirua
Bring your laptop and research enquiries. All welcome (visitors $2).

DNA Down Under
> Wednesday 14th – Saturday 31st August
> Brisbane (14th), Perth (17th), Adelaide (20th), Melbourne (23rd), Canberra (26th), Sydney (29th – 31st)
One day events in five cities, plus a three day event in Sydney, featuring genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger (USA) along with 11 other renowned speakers, with presentations suitable for DNA newbies and gurus alike. $A155 for one day, $A335 for three days, plus discount for combining Sydney with another city. See the DNA Down Under website for venue and programme information. I’m excited to be a DNA Down Under Ambassador and will be attending the Sydney three day event!

NZSG: Hutt Valley
Talk: Sharing her own family history research with Tui Lewis (Hutt City Councillor)
> Thursday 15th August: 7:30pm
> Petone Public Library, 7-11 Britannia Street, Petone
All welcome (visitors gold coin).

Wellington Family History Open Day [PDF, 1.2MB]
> Saturday 24th August: 9.30am – 4pm
> The Hutt Bowling Club, Myrtle St, Lower Hutt
NZSG Combined Wellington Branches event hosted by the Hutt Valley Branch, with  speakers from NZ Society of Genealogists, Wellington City Archives, Digital NZ, Papers Past, Hutt City Libraries, Hutt City Archives, and Archives NZ. Help desks available. $5 entry.

NZSG: Wellington
Talk: Wellington City Archives with Adrian Humphris (Wellington City Archivist)
> Wednesday 28th August: 6pm
> Connolly Hall, Guildford Terrace, Wellington
All welcome (visitors $3).

For other regions in NZ, check out the NZ Society of Genealogists events page for Family History Month activities near you.


The Travelling Genie

It’s been over a month since we arrived back from a family trip to the UK, where I managed to squeeze in a few genealogy-related activities.

While our main reason for visiting was to see family and friends, the timing of our visit was so I could attend the award ceremony for my Advanced Diploma in Local History at the beautiful Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.

University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education, 2019 Award Ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre

University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education, 2019 Award Ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre

I would absolutely recommend the course – just be prepared to give up your life while you’re doing it!  There was a lot of reading. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. You’d start off on one book or article and then disappear down a rabbit hole of footnotes and references until your eyes weeped from tiredness. The assignments were evenly spaced throughout the year, though there was also the unit homework to complete as well (did anyone ever finish it all?), and the weekly online tutorial chats to attend. These were relatively informal, but just like with the online course forum, I suffered a little from imposter syndrome and was reticent about posting much.  Which was all very daft, as the students and tutors were welcoming and generous. It was often a struggle fitting in studying with holding down a day job combined with family responsibilities, but oh, the joy in learning and having my eyes opened! And the opportunity to combine my love of history with a love of data wrangling and analysis. It was definitely the most intense and challenging course I have ever undertaken.

After Oxford, it was on to Leicester – where the Guild of One-Name Studies was celebrating its 40th birthday as part of its annual conference, and happily the dates coincided with our travels. The conference organisers had arranged an optional tour of the Richard III visitors’ centre and nearby cathedral, and it was a great chance to peer down into the spot where Richard’s body had been discovered, and also to see his impressive final resting place.

The tomb of Richard III, Leicester Cathedral

The tomb of Richard III, Leicester Cathedral

The conference itself was a combination of socialising and learning, with some fantastic presentations, including one from Simon Wills on ancestral travels by sea, Voyages from the Past. I’ve now since bought his book of the same name. (A fuller review of the conference appears in July’s Guild Journal.)

Before my trip, I had decided I would focus my research on my 3 x great grandfather, John Clark(e), and I spent a couple of days at The National Archives at Kew and three days in Belfast, chasing him up in muster rolls, pension payment records, and parish registers.  Which John Clark was he – Thing 1 or Thing 2??

John Clark (1) and (2) in the muster rolls for 74th Regiment of Foot

John Clark (1) and (2), 74th Regiment of Foot muster roll, 1 Jul – 30 Sep 1846, WO 12/8099, National Archives (UK)

I had been to Belfast several times before, but never visited the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). On my first morning in the city I stopped in at the Ulster Historical Foundation to see about booking a research consultation. Fortunately there was a researcher available right then and there, and Gillian Hunt was a huge help in reviewing what I’d already found and suggesting ways forward in my research, as well as finding a baptism I hadn’t come across.  I’d really recommend doing this, especially if it’s your first time in Belfast, though at busier times you’d need to book an appointment in advance.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), Belfast

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), Belfast

The facilities at PRONI are fabulous and the staff incredibly helpful.  It’s located in the Titanic Quarter, not far from the Titanic museum, and I opted to stay in the city centre, about a 30 minute walk away. The Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing bus travels through the area regularly, and on my last afternoon I hopped on and took a tour around the city before heading to the airport.

The last genealogical event I attended was Family Tree LIVE at Alexandra Palace in London at the end of April.  After a dearth of similar events last year due to the closure of WDYTYA? Live, suddenly there’s a whole heap of genie treats this year, and I was thrilled to sneak this in to our trip.

Queuing up to get in to Family Tree Live, Alexandra Palace, London

Family Tree LIVE, Alexandra Palace, London

The venue was fantastic, and although there were few nearby eating and sleeping options, there was parking available plus shuttle buses from Wood Green underground station.  I thought the atmosphere was wonderful, and it was lovely to catch up with many genie friends and put faces to Twitter handles. The range of talks was excellent – highlights for me were Pam Smith’s presentation on her one-place study of Rillington, and Jonny Perl’s chromosome mapping with his DNA Painter tool.

Back on this side of the planet now and there’s lots to look forward to!  My father is celebrating his 80th birthday and the launch of his family history book this month. August is Family History month in Australasia, and I’m heading to Auckland for the Family History Expo there, and have also booked for the DNA Down Under three day event in Sydney at the end of August.

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