Newsletter - 8 February 2013
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 25 January 2013) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, and for a list of articles from 2012-13 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 your convenience, when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open (so that you don’t 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!
Over the years I've had numerous pleas from members who would like there to be a LostCousins forum - and after 9 years I'm at last in the process of setting one up.
The forum will be separate from the LostCousins site, and separate registration will be required, but users will nevertheless be expected to conform to the high standards that I expect of LostCousins members.
On your My Details page at the LostCousins site there's a button you can click to indicate your interest in the forum - if you click this button you'll be one of the first to be invited to join (you'll find the button near the bottom of the page, under Privacy Settings).
Whilst on your My Details page please review the other information there and make sure it is as complete and up to date as possible.
Over 6 million records from baptism, marriage and burial registers for Manchester and the surrounding area are now available online at Ancestry.co.uk, complementing their existing collection of Lancashire parish registers. I've at last been able to see the baptism and marriage entries for a branch of my family who moved to Oldham in the second half of the 19th century - confusingly these records can be found under Manchester, not Lancashire (the same applies to Rochdale, which is even further away from Manchester).
Tip: you can save from 25% to 55% on an Ancestry subscription if you follow my advice. If you live in Europe see my tips column in this issue; if you live in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand click here.
A further complicating factor for researchers with ancestors from the Manchester area is that some of the records - including workhouse registers, prison registers, and school admission registers - are online at findmypast. Findmypast also have the parish registers for Cheshire (the county boundary is just south of Manchester).
Scotlandspeople have recently added the 1905 Valuation rolls, which are a very useful source - for full details and examples follow this link.
Millions more Irish court records online
Findmypast have added a further 2.1 million records from the Irish Petty Sessions order books from 1850-1912, covering 25 new courts and adding to the existing data for more than 50 others. By my calculation about half of the 16 million records are now online, so it's a massive resource for a country whose population was only about 4 million in the second half the 19th century.
The Petty Sessions were the lowest level courts, dealing with civil cases as well as criminal ones, and most of the people who appeared weren't hardened criminals but ordinary people who were charged with minor offences or had got into a dispute. You can find out more about the records and see a list of which courts are included here.
Tip: you can access these records at findmypast.co.uk if you have a World subscription.
At Who Do You Think You Are? Live last year findmypast announced that they would be digitizing the parish registers for Hertfordshire - between 3.5 million and 4 million records - and would be aiming to put them online before the end of 2012. You can see my article from a year ago here.
Since then I've heard absolutely nothing about these records, and even Hertfordshire Archives don't know when they'll be available - so as one of the many LostCousins members with relatives from Hertfordshire I'm hoping that there will be some further news at this year's show.
This year's Who Do You Think You Are? Live show is taking place at London's Olympia from Friday 22nd February to Sunday 24th February.
Although it is reckoned to be the world's biggest genealogy event, with nearly 12,800 visitors last year - and hundreds of exhibitors - it's inevitable that only a very small percentage of LostCousins members will be there. Even if all the attendees were LostCousins members it would still be only a fraction of our total membership, which has just passed the 92,000 mark!
So, like last year, I shall be going round the show on the first day making a note of anything that I feel is of interest to members and reporting on it in my next newsletter, which I'll be circulating over the weekend of the show. I'm also planning to take photographs so that those of you who can't be there with me can get a sense of how big and how exciting it is.
Note: the main reason I don't have a stand at the Show is because, if I did, I wouldn't be able to go round visiting the stands of other exhibitors asking the sort of questions you might ask if you were there. If it was only one day I might be able to persuade my wife to help out - but not for three days!
My great-grandfather married two sisters - and the second marriage took place ten years before it became legal to marry your dead wife's sister (in 1907). I was therefore interested to note that in Birth. Marriage & Death Records, which I reviewed last time the authors suggested (on p63) that such an illegal marriage might lead to prosecution. However, this seemed to me intuitively wrong, so I went off looking for confirmation.
I couldn't find a definitive answer, not even in Professor Rebecca Probert's masterly work Marriage Law for Genealogists - the definitive guide, which I would commend to all serious family historians, so it was fortunate that I was able to persuade Professor Probert to write a short article on this topic especially for LostCousins members!
INVALID, CRIMINAL, OR BOTH?
What does it mean to say that a marriage is ‘illegal’? It might suggest that the couples were committing a crime by marrying, but it might simply mean that the union was one that the law did not allow and was therefore invalid.
Some marriages were both invalid and criminal. Bigamous marriages, for example, were both – although given the range of defences to bigamy a second marriage might be invalid without being bigamous (if, for example, a spouse remarried after the other had been absent for seven years).
Others were invalid without being criminal as such. Marriages within the prohibited degrees – voidable until 1835, void thereafter – fell into this category. So while it was illegal – in the sense of not being permitted – to marry one’s deceased wife’s sister, there was never any question of a criminal prosecution. In earlier centuries the ecclesiastical courts might have directed the parties to separate and do penance but by the early nineteenth century this had become a rare occurrence.
Even after 1908, when legislation first made it a crime for certain blood relations to engage in a sexual relationship, marriage between such persons did not by itself count as a criminal offence (although they would of course be committing a crime if they went on to consummate the marriage). Throughout the twentieth century the circle of relatives with whom marriage was prohibited remained more extensive than the list of those with whom a sexual relationship would be a crime: the uncle/niece relationship is a good example.
While a marriage within the prohibited degrees would be void regardless of whether the parties knew that they were related, there was a further potential criminal offence – that of perjury – which depended on knowingly making a false statement. Some marriages that were valid might still involve a criminal offence if one of the parties committed perjury by lying about their age or name in order to obtain a licence or superintendent registrar’s certificate. In a case from 1917, where a young man had given a false name, the court held that the consequence of giving a false notice to the registrar was ‘not to invalidate the marriage, but to expose the parties to penalties of perjury.’
In short, rather than using the often imprecise term ‘illegal’, we need to ask whether the marriage was invalid, criminal, or both.
© Copyright Rebecca Probert 2013
I recently saw a spoof news report produced by The Onion, a satirical newspaper, which detailed how the CIA was using Facebook to monitor the public - you can view the video here.
Of course, many a true word is spoken in jest. In June last year the US State Department was seeking software to analyse information on social networks; the FBI were already in the process of acquiring such software, and the Department of Homeland Security had been using it for some time.
When family historians publish information online they tend to assume that it's going to be read by people just like themselves - but in reality you don't know who will see it, or what they will do with the information, so be very careful what you post online.
It has been alleged that as many as 80 undercover policemen stole the identities of dead children (see this BBC article for full details); many of you will, I'm sure, recall how a similar technique was used by the hitman in Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal.
Horrifying as it must be for the families concerned, it's hard to imagine how else one might construct a false identity that will stand up to scrutiny. What do you think?
A recent article in New Scientist describes how the Identitas v1 Forensic Chip can be used to deduce some of the physical characteristics of a suspect from small amounts of DNA.
I wonder whether one day we'll be able to find out what our ancestors looked like by analysing their DNA?
Just a few days ago it was confirmed that the skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park is indeed that of King Richard III of England, a monarch who was on the throne for only two years, and was demonised by Shakespeare. Perhaps the most heinous crime attributed to him was murdering the Princes in the Tower, his young nephews Edward V and Richard, Duke of York.
Although the skeletons of two children were found during renovations of the Tower of London in 1674, their grave in Westminster Abbey has not been opened since 1933 - so no DNA analysis has ever been carried out. Following the successful use of DNA to confirm the identity of King Richard, there must be an excellent chance that a similar test could verify that the bodies found were indeed those of the princes.
But surely what genealogists all over the world REALLY want to know is "What does this discovery mean for us?". Is it feasible to dig up our ancestors (assuming we could get permission) then use DNA tests to reveal more about our ancestry?
The first problem is finding our ancestors' resting places. Most of them will have been buried in unmarked graves, in mass graves, in graves that have been disturbed - whether to make room for other bodies, a supermarket, or a car park - or in graves which have lost their headstones, or where the inscriptions are not longer legible.
But even if we do manage to get a viable DNA sample, what are we going to compare it against? In isolation DNA tells us very little that is of genealogical interest - it's usually only when we compare it against other samples that we can learn anything useful about our family tree. Comparing our ancestor's DNA with our own may enable us to confirm that we've exhumed the right body (and that the research we've carried out using records hasn't been confounded by a hitherto unanticipated 'non-paternity event'), but it's unlikely to tell us anything about earlier generations. Only if tens of thousands of exhumed bodies are tested will there be much chance of discovering something new, but surely that isn't going to happen.
Or is it? Is there a chain of circumstances that might lead to large amounts of historical DNA samples becoming available?
The new HS2 rail line is likely to run through several cemeteries, and if you look back at my article from last year you'll see that as many as 50,000 graves could be affected. But there are always graveyards and cemeteries under threat from development, especially those that are in or near cities.
I've long felt that the procedure for handling such developments is severely lacking: typically an advertisement is placed in the local paper before permission is given, but how many of us live close to where our ancestors did? In 2011 I came up with the idea that long before work commences, all the information about the people who are buried should be placed online at a site that is freely accessible to anyone.
But why not go a stage further, and take DNA samples? If the bones of our ancestors are going to be disturbed - and sadly this will often happen whether we want it to or not - shouldn't we at least have the opportunity to take samples that might tell us more about them? After all, in many cases those DNA samples will be the ONLY way of possibly identifying who was buried in an unmarked grave.
What I'm suggesting may seem controversial, but surely if society deems it essential that the remains of our ancestors should be moved, doesn't it make sense to learn something from it?
Researchers at Queen's University, Belfast, are looking for people who may share the gene that resulted in Charles Byrne grow to over seven and a half feet in the 18th century. If you were born in the south of County Londonderry, or the east of County Tyrone, you can take part in the project by going to the Tesco car park at Cookstown tomorrow (Saturday 9th) or at Dungannon on March 1st or 2nd.
I should mention than in two-thirds of cases people who have the mutation don't show any symptoms, so wouldn't be aware of it. See this BBC News article for more information.
As you probably remember, the song goes on "...who's danced with the Prince of Wales". It's perhaps the first example of the "six degrees of separation" concept that has in some ways inspired modern networking.
Last month I wrote about the German Field Marshall who is believed to be the oldest person of whom a voice recording exists (he was born in 1800). In the same edition of QI Stephen Fry mentioned that he once sat next to Marconi's widow at a party - for although Marconi himself died in 1937 at the age of just 63, his widow was born in 1900 and lived until 1994.
Another fascinating fact on the same programme was that when Stephen Fry shook hands with Alastair Cooke, he was told that Cooke had one shaken hands with Bertrand Russell. This in itself wasn't surprising, since Russell lived until 1970 - so most of us might have encountered him - but Bertrand Russell's aunt had once danced with Napoleon, which really is a link with the past.
When I was thinking about this a name popped into my head - Larry Londin. Around 1986 I was in Los Angeles promoting a digital sound sampler that my company was selling when someone I'd never seen before walked up to the stand. My colleague - who actually knew something about music - whispered "That's Larry Londin", and explained that he was a famous session musician.
As I recall we arranged for Larry Londin to have a free sampler in return for his endorsement, and that was that as far as I was concerned - until his name popped into my head and I decided to Google him. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I discovered that he spent 9 years recording and touring with Elvis Presley - so, forget about dancing with the Prince, I've shaken hands with someone who knew the King!
Over 100,000 burial records from Manor Park Cemetery in East London have been added by Deceased Online. I don't always report new additions to this site - there are so many - but I was so excited to find not only the graves of my father's mother and brother, but also my mother's grandmother, that this time I had to share it with you!
Searching is free, but to view a record (which may be a transcription or a scan from the register) requires credits. Beware of buying a map of the grave location - you may find, as I did, that it gives you no more information than you already have (that was 25 credits down the drain) - but otherwise it's a wonderful site, just so long as your ancestor's surname wasn't too common (or you know when they died).
Tip: Manor Park Cemetery have a free map on their website which shows the numbered blocks - so once you have the grave number you don't need another map.
I still haven't received a convincing solution to the Birthday Book challenge that has been running since Christmas - although numerous members have succeeded in making connections between the people who came from Wiltshire and most of those from Suffolk, it isn't clear who the first owner was, or how the book came to be in the possession of Miss C Coleman.
Some members have suggested that Loo and Mollie were both pets. It's certainly possible, although if that were the case I'd have expected their names to be written in the same handwriting (that of the owner of the book).
Any more thoughts?
On the Help & Advice page at LostCousins you'll find a link to a PDF guide that will prove invaluable for anyone who has family connections with South Africa. As Ancestry24, the site that hosts the guide, will be closing at the end of this month I strongly urge you to download a copy and save it on your own computer - once Ancestry24 closes it won't be available at LostCousins.
My wife pointed this BBC News article about an Essex man who is still working at the age of 100 (I think she must have taken a look at my pension forecast).
Is there anyone in your family tree who was still working at the age of 100?
In the last newsletter I explained how I use Google to find an article from a past edition of my newsletter - it's quick, it's easy, and it usually takes you to the right article in seconds.
However, I also realised that it would also be very helpful for members if I created a web page which lists all of the articles from 2012 (and 2013 so far), with links that will take you directly to them. I've organised it in reverse chronological order, with the most recent articles first, and you'll find it online here - I do hope you find it useful.
Tip: if you press Ctrl-F you can search for a word or phrase (this is a feature of your browser that you can use on almost any web page).
Last month there was an exclusive discount on offer to LostCousins members at findmypast. This time I'm going to focus on the world's biggest genealogy company - Ancestry.
If you live in the UK by far the cheapest way to get an Ancestry Premium subscription is to buy Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum through Amazon, where it will currently cost you just £25.28 including postage. Since a 12 month subscription would normally cost £107.40, the free 6 month subscription you'll get is worth £53.70 - so you're saving 53% even if you never use the program (which I for one won't). You can also save on a World subscription, though the percentage saving isn't as great - check here for the latest price.
Those bargains aren't available outside Europe, but if you live in the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand make sure you read this article from last October - everyone who has followed my advice has saved a substantial sum on their Ancestry subscription.
Tip: do your sums carefully before buying an upgrade of Family Tree Maker from the publishers - although it's more expensive to buy the full 2012 version elsewhere (click here to see Amazon's price), the value of the free 6 month subscription, something you don't get with the upgrade, more than makes up for the difference.
If you enjoyed the video tour of the International Space Station that I recommended in December you're also likely to enjoy this rather shorter video shot from the cockpit of the first A380 to land at San Francisco airport.
Fancy studying for a degree? Alexander wrote to tell me about a loophole in the student loans scheme that means mature students may never have to repay the loans! You'll find full details in this Daily Telegraph article - let me know if you decide to take advantage of this opportunity.
Do you ever buy DVDs? There are two offers running at Tesco at the moment that can be combined - saving you a LOT of money!
When you pre-order a new release, such as Skyfall, you can get an extra 150 Clubcard points (DVD) or 250 Clubcard points (Blu-ray) - click here to see what's available. Although Clubcard points are only worth 1p each when you spend them at the till, they can be worth anything from 2p to 4p each when you exchange them for rewards tokens (and as there are 600 to choose from, there's almost certainly something you'll want). So 150 points are worth up to £6, and 250 points up to £10.
There's also a Pre-Order Price Promise - if Tesco reduce the price prior to the release they'll refund the difference. And did I mention that delivery is free?
But that's not all - if you spend over £25 you can use the code TD-KFPW to save £5 (this code expires on Sunday 10th February, so you'll have to act quickly); I got two Blu-ray disks that would normally have cost £30.99 for just £25.99, and I'll get 525 points worth up to £21. You can even use the code again if you place a second order.
Last, but hopefully not least, if you click here or on one of the links above to go to the Tesco site then LostCousins will get a small commission (about 30p) should you decide to place an order!
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
I hope you've found this newsletter interesting and that you'll make full use of your membership of my site to link with the cousins you don't yet know (your 'lost cousins').
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver except as otherwise stated
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