Newsletter - 12 February 2012

 

 

How to save $$$ on an Ancestry subscription

Ancestry reach 1.7 million subscribers!

Brightsolid opens up in the US

Save 10% on ALL Genes Reunited subscriptions

A Titanic discovery

Knocking down more 'brick walls'

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet

Story competition - results due soon

Advertising Standards Authority bans certificate scams

Did you spot the fake website?

What should you do if you're contacted by an heir hunter?

How to find the OLD FamilySearch site

Thank goodness for transcription errors!

Do the dead outnumber the living?

Peter's tips

 

The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 29 January 2012) please click here.

 

Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them).For you convenience, when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open (so that you donít lose your place in the newsletter) - if nothing seems to happen then you need to enable pop-ups in your browser.

 

To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's free, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!

 

How to save $$$ on an Ancestry subscription

I've mentioned many times how UK members can save £££ on an Ancestry.co.uk Premium subscription by buying the right edition of Family Tree Maker (click here to go straight to the relevant page at Amazon). However, overseas members can't take advantage of this offer.

 

But now I can reveal how members in the US, Canada, and Australia can save $$$ on a Worldwide Ancestry subscription. It's very simple - instead of subscribing through your local Ancestry site, take out a subscription through Ancestry.co.uk, which will save you $$$ compared to an equivalent subscription at Ancestry.com, Ancestry.ca, or even Ancestry.com.au!

 

Here's how it works out - when you take out an Annual Worldwide subscription through Ancestry.co.uk and you will be billed £155.40, which at the current exchange rate is equivalent to $245. The bank that issued your credit card will probably add between 2% and 3% to cover the currency conversion, so the amount on your credit card statement will be around $252.

 

However, if you take out a World Explorer subscription through Ancestry.com you'll be billed $149.40 for each 6 months, equivalent to $298.80 for a full year - about 18% more (Ancestry.com don't appear to offer 12 month subscriptions any more).

 

I have ignored local taxes in all these calculations since the rates vary between US states; as I understand it you will pay sales tax at the same rate whether you buy from Ancestry.com or Ancestry.co.uk

 

There are also savings to be made if you currently have a World Heritage subscription through Ancestry.com.au or a World Deluxe subscription through Ancestry.ca, (indeed, it was Myrna in Canada who wrote to point out how large the savings are). I can't quantify the savings precisely because I'm not familiar with sales tax situation in those two countries, but I'll update this article if I manage to get hold of the information before the next newsletter.

 

Please note that this opportunity only exists in respect of the Worldwide subscription - which despite the different names covers the same records whichever site you join. Visit this page on the Ancestry.co.uk site to see what each of their subscriptions offers.

 

Tip: you will probably find that switching to Ancestry.co.uk will mean using a different user name and email address, so if you have an online tree at Ancestry.com make sure you download a copy before your existing subscription expires.

 

468x60: Iím, your Nan

 

Ancestry reach 1.7 million subscribers!

The number of paying subscribers to Ancestry has increased by 22%, by 1.3 million to 1.7 million in the space of a year - it just goes to show how popular family history is becoming!

 

Stockmarket analysts are expecting Ancestry's revenues in 2012 to exceed $450 million, which makes them about 10 times bigger than Brightsolid, the Scottish-based company that owns findmypast, Genes Reunited, and Friends Reunited, and has also recently launched the British Newspaper Archive. However, it seems that BrightSolid may be planning to close the gap...

 

Brightsolid opens up in the US

I recently reported that findmypast was involved in the project to put the US 1940 census online, and queried what this meant for their plans in the US. Now Brightsolid, the parent company of findmypast, has revealed its hand with the beta launch of Censusrecords.com. This brand new site will eventually offer access to all of the US censuses, from 1790 to 1940, for an amazing $34.95 a year (that's less than £25).

 

Right now they don't have all the censuses - it is, after all, only a beta site. But they do have transcriptions of ten censuses: 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1880, 1900, and 1930 censuses, and the FAQs on the website suggest that 1860, 1870, 1890, 1910 and 1920 will follow shortly.

 

But transcriptions aren't everything - often you can only be certain you've found the person, or the right family, when you look at census image. Currently they only have images for the 1900 census, but they do intend to add the 1860, 1870, 1890, 1910 and 1920 images; however, I couldn't see what their plans are in relation to the other census years.

 

Searching is free, but to view the entire record you need to subscribe or buy credits - except for the 1790-1840 censuses, which are free once you register. There are a few issues to tidy up, but I was very impressed with the speed of the Search - when I searched for the surname Smith across all 10 censuses it came up with the first page of results almost immediately. I only wish I had more American cousins in my tree!

 

Save 10% on ALL Genes Reunited subscriptions

For the first time Genes Reunited are offering a discount on ALL their subscriptions - offers in the past have only applied to the top Platinum subscription.

 

Click here and register or log-in if you have registered previously. Next choose a subscription and click Subscribe. On the page where you enter your credit card details you'll see a box at the right entitled "Have a promotional code?" - enter the code GRFEB10 and click Submit to display the discounted price.

 

This offer ends on Sunday 26th February, the last day of Who Do You Think You Are? Live.

 

Discover your ancestors at Genes Reunited.co.uk

 

A Titanic discovery

Over the past week it has been too cold (and dangerous) to go out, so I've been sitting indoors wearing a thick sweater that belonged to my late father whilst I sort through the multitude of papers and other ephemera that he accumulated.

 

Amongst his belongings I found a menu card for The Boys' Brigade, West Essex Battalion Annual Dinner, held on Saturday 7th January 1939. By that time my father was an officer in the 5th West Essex company, and as he ran a small printing business I wonder whether he might have printed the menu cards himself? That could certainly explain why he held on to it for over 70 years.

 

But he might have kept the menu card simply as a record of the splendid meal that they enjoyed: Tomato Soup, followed by Fillet of Sole, then Roast Mutton with Red Current Jelly and Vegetables, a Japanese dessert,Cheese, and finally Coffee. When rationing began a year and a day later a sumptuous meal like that would have seemed like an impossible dream!

 

He might also have kept the menu because of the many autographs, mostly in pencil and hard to read - rather like the 1841 Census! Or he might have kept the menu because amongst the list of Artistes were Messrs Calver and Bowley - by that time my father had composed many humorous songs (though he'd usually call them 'ditties' - I'm not sure he ever realised quite how talented he was).

 

But looking amongst the names of the other artistes I noticed a Miss Eva Hart, Soprano. Could this be the famous Eva Hart who survived the sinking of the Titanic, and who lived and died in the area? I frantically searched online for information about her, and there I found the proof - in her 1996 obituary published in the New York Times - Eva Hart had been a professional singer in Australia.

 

So did Dad keep the menu because the famous Eva Hart had performed at the dinner? I'd rather like to think that he did!

 

Note: It's little more than 2 months to the Centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on 15th April 1912, and I've discovered that there are some interesting documents that you can view free at the findmypast site, including part of the passenger list, 1911 Census entries for some of the passengers, and merchant navy records for two of the crew. Are there any Titanic passengers or crew listed on your My Ancestors page? Do let me know.

 

Knocking down more 'brick walls'

My maternal grandfather and his father both lost their wives at a very early age. When my great-grandfather remarried in 1897 it was to his late wife's sister - something that was illegal at the time, and continued to be until the law changed in 1907. However, this article is about my grandfather's first wife, whose family has proved very difficult to trace (she was only 25 when she died - they had been married for less than 2 years).

 

My father once mentioned that my Aunt Min, the only child of my grandfather's first marriage, used to receive cards from a cousin in Canada - but unfortunately he couldn't remember the name. It was only this week that I came across an entry in his address book from the 1960s where he'd pencilled the words "Min's cousin" above the name and address.

 

That was a bit of luck, but there was an even bigger piece of luck to come. When I looked at the address I realised that it was the very same town in Ontario where a 4th cousin of mine lives - we're related through the paternal line of my grandfather's second wife, so it's an amazing coincidence. I tried looking the name up in the phone book (using Whitepages.ca), but not surprisingly there was nobody with that surname living at the address, nor anyone with that surname and the right initials. It was half a century later, after all!

 

Naturally my next step was to email my 4th cousin with the information I had, in the hope that she might be able to find information in local directories or electoral registers that might help us track down the family. Diane was wonderful - just two days later she got back to me with a wealth of information, and told me of an even bigger coincidence. When she found she read the obituary for the son of my aunt's cousin she realised that she knew the family - her next door neighbour and their next door neighbour were connected to the family by marriage!

 

Within minutes I was emailing my aunt's relative in Texas - I couldn't believe that a 'brick wall' that had puzzled me for so long could come tumbling down so quickly, and so unexpectedly. Canada has a population of nearly 34 million, so the chance of finding two relatives from different lines living next to each other must be as likely as scooping the lottery!

 

I wasn't the only one to knock down a 'brick wall' this week. Fran wrote about the problems he was having tracing the death of a Rosa Matilda Lloyd. There was a family story that suggested she might have committed suicide, but wherever he looked, he couldn't find a death certificate.

 

I came up with two suggestions: one was to check the British Newspaper Archive for a report of her death, the other was to order the death certificate for a Rose Ellen M Lloyd - because whilst the name wasn't the one Fran had given me, I noticed that Rosa's birth had been registered as Rose, without any middle names (and as you'll know from my Masterclass article on finding birth certificates in the last issue, middle names come and go). Also, the death had been registered in Whitechapel - and whilst that was several miles from where Rosa lived, I knew it was the site of the London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital).

 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Fran sent off for the certificate and was delighted to discover that it was the right one - and he'd even managed to track down the post mortem report in the London Hospital Archives.

 

These two stories just go to show that persistence usually pays off eventually, though sometimes the vital clues can come from an unexpected source!

 

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet

I use Google all the time to find out facts and figures, as I expect you do to - but do please remember that information you find is only as good as its source.

 

When I was in my early teens I walked from Ilford to Chelmsford, a distance of 23 miles, to raise money for Christian Aid. It's probably the furthest I've ever walked in one day, and I can still remember the blisters!


I'd given any hope of pinning down precisely when it was - not many people can remember back nearly 50 years - but just this week, as I was sorting through my late father's papers, I turned over a page of notes to discover that they'd been typed on the back of a leaflet publicising the walk. It gave the time (7am from Ilford Town Hall), it gave the date (Whit Monday, June 7th) - but what it didn't give was the year.

 

No matter, I knew that Whitsun was 7 weeks after Easter so, I located a table giving all the dates of Easter for the 20th century, and scanned through for April 18th. Could it be 1954? No, too early. 1976? Far too late. I soon realised that 1965 was the only year it could have been.

 

However, I like to double-check things, so my next visit was to a site that offers a perpetual calendar, and gives the Bank Holiday dates in each year. In fact, I tried several sites, and they all gave the date of the Bank Holiday in 1965 as May 31st, not June 7th. One site explained that "The spring bank holiday started as the Monday after Pentecost. This is known as Whitsun or Whit Monday in the United Kingdom. The Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, moved this bank holiday to the last Monday in May, following a trial period of this arrangement from 1965 to 1970."

 

Fortunately, like most members in the UK, I have free online access to certain newspaper archives courtesy of my local public library - all I have to do is type in my library card number. Soon I found an article in a 1965 issue of The Times which confirmed that it had not been possible to change the bank holiday that year.

 

You might think - what does it matter, it's only a week? Once you allow small inaccuracies to creep into your research there's no way of knowing what the consequencies will be - because you don't know who else (or what else) might depend on that data. Double-check information whenever you can, and if you decide to include information that you can't verify, say so. It's not just for the benefit of others - there may come a time when you yourself need a reminder (after all, they haven't yet found a cure for forgetfulness).

 

Tip: most online resources at British public libraries can be accessed from home, provided you have a library ticket. Isn't it time you checked to see what your library can offer?

 

Story competition - results due soon

I was impressed by the high standard of members' entries for the competition run by the Federation of Family History Societies - it made me wonder whether you should be writing this newsletter instead of me! The challenge was to submit an essay of no more than 1000 words about "the most interesting person in your family tree", and the quality of contributions from LostCousins members was so high that I wouldn't be surprised if one of you wins.

 

The results are due to be released by the FFHS this month - and once they have been revealed I will announce which of the members who sent copies of their entries to me will be receiving a free LostCousins subscription (I don't want to influence the judges of the main competition).

 

Advertising Standards Authority bans certificate scams

I mentioned a while ago that the General Register Office was warning researchers not to order certificates from 3rd party sites - now the Advertising Standards Authority has banned three sites from implying that they are official suppliers of certificates. However, it seems that sites like Ancestry that charge high prices without trying to mislead will be able to continue what they are doing.

 

Did you spot the fake website?

In my last newsletter I invited you to look at three 'heir hunter' websites and tell me which - if any - you thought were scams. I was surprised to get so many replies (if only I'd had as many entries for the jam-making competition!), and SIX lucky members will shortly learn that they have been awarded a free LostCousins subscription.

 

Opinions were divided - some members thought that all three were all scams, and those who identified one or two sites as scams didn't agree. Some entrants didn't express an opinion about every site, or professed that they weren't sure, or would need to do some more research.

 

Nearly half of those who entered thought Quantock Research was a scam, although a quarter decided it was genuine.DS Research was the only one of the three to get more thumbs-ups than thumbs down, although the margin wasn't enormous. Over half correctly identified Bentley & Roberts as a scam - though some of you thought it was the only genuine site of the three, possibly because the website looked more professional than the others.

 

Although Quantock and DS are both genuine heir hunting firms, I think they ought to be worried about the high number of LostCousins members who thought otherwise. Indeed, after the competition entries started rolling in I began to wonder whether I'd inadvertently picked more than one bogus site. Fortunately some of the entrants went to great lengths to research the sites (one even sent an email to each of them, asking for advice on an inheritance matter - all three replied), and it was eventually confirmed that my initial assessment was correct.

 

Given the wide diversity of opinion between the different entrants it became apparent that there are certain things to look out for - though I'm not going to spell out precisely how to distinguish a genuine site from a fake, because it would soon become a scammers charter, and I don't want to make it any easier for the rogues than it already is.

 

What I can say is that you should look for facts that can be verified independently. For example, DS Researchers state on their site that they appear in Series 6 of BBC 2's Heir Hunters programme - but as that series hasn't yet been shown it's hard to prove them right - or wrong. Bentley & Roberts claimed to be a limited company, but a free online search at Companies House disproved that one in just 30 seconds.

 

Membership of professional organisations can usually be checked at that body's website, but make sure that it's not a case of identity theft (one LostCousins member received an email giving the name of a genuine firm, but quoting a different address). Watch out, too, for phoney organisations - and for genuine organisations where the main qualification for membership is the ability to hand over a credit card number.

 

And, by the way, even genuine websites sometimes feature glaring errors of spelling or punctuation - just look at Quantock Research's home page!

 

One of the UK's most respected Internet security consultants recently reported that confidence tricksters are using the popularity of the TV series to trick members of the public into revealing personal information that could lead to fraud.

 

The easy solution is to ignore anyone who contacts you about an inheritance - but could you be missing out? Once you've read my next article you'll be much more likely to do the right thing when a genuine heir hunter gets in touch.

 

What should you do if you're contacted by an heir hunter?

A month ago I mentioned that I had been contacted by an heir hunter a couple of years ago, and asked members to tell me about their experiences. Once again, the number of responses was higher than I expected - and in almost every case the member concerned (or a close relative) had ended up with a tidy sum in their bank account!

 

The initial contact is most likely to be a letter, but phone calls are increasingly common. In my case the letter I received was accompanied by an impressive brochure, and a contract that - if I signed it - would give 40% of any inheritance I was due to the heir hunters. Fine if the inheritance was £100, but what if it was £10,000 or £100,000?

 

RULE NO. 1 - DON'T SIGN ANYTHING IMMEDIATELY

 

The worst thing you can do is sign straightaway - despite what they say, most heir hunters are prepared to negotiate downwards. As a family historian you're not only in a better position than most to handle everything yourself (should you so choose), you've also got information that will be valuable to the heir hunters, and you can use this to negotiate their fee downwards (if that's what you eventually decide).

 

RULE NO.2 - DON'T GIVE AWAY VITAL INFORMATION

 

When I asked people who had dealt with heir hunters and subsequently received an inheritance what their advice would be for others in the same position, the most common recommendation was not to reveal information to the heir hunter without getting something in exchange.

 

RULE NO.3 - THEIR FEES ARE NEGOTIABLE

 

Heir hunters aren't stupid - if you ask them if their commission is negotiable they'll tell you that it isn't. But if they think you're prepared to do the work yourself and cut them out they'll be much more likely to negotiate.

 

RULE NO.4 - REMEMBER VAT

 

Value Added Tax in the UK is now 20% - that's a big addition to whatever percentage the heir hunter charges. It means that 25% becomes 30%, whilst one-third (a commonly quoted rate) becomes 40% when you add VAT. If you do the work yourself you won't pay any VAT, nor will you have to pay tax or National Insurance contributions, or any of the other overheads that a company would typically have.

 

If only half the money the heir hunters charge goes into their pockets this means that they've got to charge you twice as much. That's certainly an incentive to do the work yourself, isn't it!

 

RULE NO.5 - CONTACT YOUR RELATIVES

 

It's unlikely you're the only one in the family to be contacted by the heir hunters - so your first pro-active step should be to find out who else has been contacted, and suggest they don't sign anything for the time being.

 

But the other reason to contact them is even more crucial - if you know who else has been contacted it will be far easier to work out who has died.

 

RULE NO.6 - WORK OUT WHO HAS DIED

 

You'll almost certainly figure out very quickly which side of your family is relevant, but to go beyond that you first have to understand the laws of inheritance. Fortunately there's a handy guide on the Bona Vacantia website - the site of the division within the Treasury Solicitor's department responsible for the estates of those who die intestate. On page 7 of the PDF file you'll find a chart which shows the order of priority - and the first thing you'll notice is that to inherit you need to be descended from their grandparents.

 

This means that 2nd, 3rd and more distant cousins are NOT entitled to share in an estate - which greatly simplifies the task of identifying the deceased. But bear in mind that they're likely to be from an earlier generation than you - so rather than being your 1st cousin they're likely to be your 1st cousin once or twice removed. In my case the paternal grandparents of the cousin who died were my great-grandparents, which made her my 1st cousin once removed (but how said that it was only after her death that I found out about her - until then she'd been just a name on the family tree).

 

RULE NO.7 - DECIDE WHETHER TO SIGN UP

 

Once you know who has died you can work out who half the beneficiaries are simply by referring to your family tree. However, then it starts to get more difficult - because you probably won't have researched the other half of your cousin's tree (remember that they have two sets of grandparents, and it's unlikely that you are descended from both of them).

 

There are also all sorts of legal issues that it wouldn't be appropriate to go into in this article, not least because I'm still finding my way through the minefield. However, when you come to make the decision whether to sign up with the heir hunter it's worth remembering that your inheritance won't disappear if you don't sign - they can't cut you out simply because you don't play ball. There is very little to be lost, and potentially a great deal to be gained by stalling.

 

Tip: one of the big heir hunting companies told me that they don't get involved unless the estate is worth at least £20,000 - so that's something to bear in mind when you're making your decision.

 

In this article I've focused on tactics and the family history aspects - but there are also legal issues that come into play, and I'll be returning to this topic in a future article once I have completed my research. If, in the meantime, you are contacted by an heir hunter who you believe to be genuine, by all means get in touch - I may be able to help.

 

How to find the OLD FamilySearch site

Many, many members have told me that they can do things at the old FamilySearch site that they can't do at the new one - indeed, as I reported recently, whilst there are many new datasets at the new site, some of the IGI data from the old site hasn't been transferred for copyright reasons.

 

Until recently there used to be a link to the 'old' FamilySearch site from the home page of the new site - but it recently disappeared. According to FamilySearch themselves it was removed inadvertently, but now that it has happened they have no intention of replacing it.

 

I suspect their plan is to reduce usage of the old site to such an extent that they can close it down without upsetting too many people. I can appreciate that there's some logic in this (it must cost them more to host two sites), but at the same time I still use the old site most days, and I'm sure many of you do too.

 

I've therefore set up a website called OldFamilySearch.com which has direct links to the IGI and census search pages at the old FamilySearch site (you'll find them on the Quick Links page). Right now the site is only half-complete - I'm planning to add some of the articles I've written about the FamilySearch site in the past - but it's still the easiest way to get to the old site. And whilst there may be other ways of getting to the old site, they could disappear - just like the link that used to be on the home page of the new site. As long as the old site exists, I'll make sure that OldFamilySearch.com always links to it!

 

Tip: although I've only included a handful of links so far, once you get to the old site you can navigate to other parts of the site, including the US Social Security Death Index which, owing to privacy concerns, is no longer available free at Rootsweb (though it can still be accessed by Ancestry.com subscribers).

 

Thank goodness for transcription errors!

In my opinion we should be grateful for the errors that are made by transcribers. Why? Because it teaches us to be better researchers!

 

The fact is, many of the errors on the census are nothing to do with modern-day transcribers - often they are the fault of the enumerator, and sometimes they are the fault of the head of household (as the 1911 Census schedules confirm).

 

The same search techniques that enable us to overcome transcription errors also help us to overcome other errors - and yet I'm frequently surprised by how few people use wildcards, sometimes because they aren't aware that they can be used. A member who had switched from Ancestry to findmypast wrote to me recently to complain that findmypast didn't allow the use of wildcards - yet findmypast are actually more flexible in allowing wildcards than Ancestry have ever been!

 

Of course, if you use wildcards incorrectly you can end up with far too many results - and whilst more results is usually a good thing, trying to find a needle in a haystack isn't much fun.

 

When I'm using wildcards I try to use them as intelligently as possible - this means considering what might have gone wrong. A very common problem is the misinterpretation of lower-case letters that look similar in cursive handwriting, for example the letters 'm', 'n', 'u', 'v', and 'w' can look very similar. The letters 'r', v' and 'n' are also easy to confuse, as are 'a', 'e', and 'o'.

 

Capital letters can also be misread - 'P' and 'T' are commonly confused, and I saw an example recently where the enumerator's capital 'F' looked just like an 'H'. Had it not been obvious that the family were more likely to be living in a 'Farm house' than a 'Harm house' I'd never have realised my mistake.

 

If I'm searching for someone with an unusual surname I know there's a very high chance that it has been misspelled or mistranscribed. What I try to do is pick out a few letters from the surname that are likely to have been transcribed correctly, for example if the surname was Hazlington I'd probably search for h*l*g* or - if that produced too many results - h*zl*g* (though I might hedge my bets by also searching for h*sl*g*).

 

Most sites will offer to include near matches in the search results, but in my experience the judicious use of wildcards is usually preferable (although when searching the GRO indexes I find that findmypast are very good at delivering up alternative spellings).

 

But wildcards aren't the solution to every problem - you can't use wildcards in the age, or year of birth box. What you can do, however, is provide some leeway for error: I usually allow +/- 2 years, but when you're searching the 1841 Census you most allow more (because most ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 years). Remember too, that woman tended to lose years as they get older - and men often do the same if they marry a younger woman.

 

However the best advice I can give you is to leave as many boxes empty as you can. I enter the absolute minimum of information - sometimes a surname and nothing else. I hardly ever specify a birthplace because even if it's shown correctly (and it often won't be), it won't necessarily be shown in the same way on every census.

 

Finally, transcription errors can be amusing. Jenny sent me a wonderful example recently - she discovered somebody on the 1861 Census who Ancestry had transcribed as Dodo Hackett. Take a look at piece 2453, folio 77, page 21 and you'll see exactly where they went wrong.

 

Tip: it's easy to look up census pages using the references at either findmypast or Ancestry, but not at The Genealogist or Genes Reunited.

 

Do the dead outnumber the living?

The population of the world has almost trebled in my lifetime to 7 billion, yet for most of the existence of the human race the world population would have been less than the present-day population of many cities - perhaps a few million.

 

I've often heard it said that there are more people alive today than have ever lived (or more precisely, than have ever died), but is that really true? The BBC recently published an interesting analysis carried out by the Population Reference Bureau in Washington - I was amazed at their conclusion!

 

Thanks to my wife, and to LostCousins member Tony for telling my about that report. Tony also drew my attention to a page on the National Statistics website which shows by age the population of England & Wales in each of the census years from 1911-2001 - quite fascinating.

 

Peter's tips

Thank you to everyone who responded to my suggestion that there should be a separate web site for my tips. The response was generally positive: the only concern, voiced by many of you, was that this column might disappear completely from the LostCousins newsletter (it seems that even overseas members like to know how we Brits can save money at Tesco). That won't happen - the new site will be in addition to this column.

 

I'm going to start with an offer from Tesco that could earn you not one, not two, but as many as three discounts if you are quick! If you haven't tried their grocery delivery service before you can save £10 on £50 or more of groceries when you click here and enter the discount code XXAFFT (valid until 20th February). But that's not all, if you spend over £60 and your delivery arrives before 19th February you'll also get a voucher that saves you 10p per litre on fuel (that's an additional saving of about £4 for an average car) and - if I've read the small print correctly - you'll get a £5 voucher against your next online grocery order, so long as it amounts to £40 or more and is delivered between 21st-26th February.

 

Have you bought your stamps for next year's Christmas cards yet? I've bought enough to last me for the next 5 years - after all, 1st and 2nd class stamps could rise by up to 50% in April. I've previously mentioned the 5% saving that WH Smith are offering on books of 1st and 2nd Class stamps when you order online - and whilst this was due to finish at the end of January, I'm glad to say that it has now been extended.

 

Thinking of ordering a birth. marriage, or death certificate from the General Register Office? At nearly £10 a time you wouldn't want to order the wrong certificate, yet most people take that chance without even considering the alternative.

 

Until March 2010 you'd be charged extra if you didn't provide the index references, but now there's no extra charge. How does the GRO know which certificate to give you? They check the information you provide, and if it doesn't match any of the register entries in a 3 year period they refund your money.

 

I'd still recommend you provide the index references when you know beyond doubt that it's the right entry - but if you are in any doubt, doesn't it make sense to take precautions?

 

Finally, an opportunity to indulge yourself that won't cost nearly as much as you'd expect. The Chocolate Tasting Club (part of Hotel Chocolat) is offering half-price introductory selections - there are five to choose from, including all-milk and all-dark (my favourite). A little late for Valentine's Day, perhaps, but in time for Easter, and much more civilised than a Cadbury's egg. There's no obligation to continue as a member (though believe me, once you've tasted their chocolates, it will be hard to resist) but if you do, you can choose to have selections at one, two, or three-monthly intervals. I started with a box every month, but I've now cut back to one every two months (though admittedly I top up occasionally when there's a special offer).

 

Stop Press

This where any last minute amendments will be recorded or highlighted.

 

Please keep sending in your news and tips - many of the articles in this newsletter result from suggestions from readers like you!

 

peter_signature

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver

 

You may link to this newsletter, but please email me first if you would like to re-publish any part of it.