Newsletter - 12 January 2013
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Almost exactly three years ago I wrote in this newsletter about child migration from Britain to Commonwealth nations such as Canada and Australia - you can read the original article here (I've updated the links).
Tonight (Saturday) at 9.45pm BBC2 will be showing Oranges and Sunshine, Jim Loach's 2010 film about a social worker who discovered that thousands of British children had been forcibly deported to Australia in the decades following the Second World War. Margaret Humphreys went on to found the Child Migrants Trust which continues to link migrants with their families.
The Radio Times describes it as an "historical drama" - and yet it's about shocking events that happened during the lifetime of most LostCousins members. I'm going to take the liberty of repeating two paragraphs from the Child Migrants Trust website (they're headlined "Rhetoric and Reality") to give you some idea of what happened:
After being told fanciful tales of travel to the "Land of Milk and Honey," where children ride to school on horseback and pick up fruit on the side of the road, child migrants were sent abroad without passports, social histories or even the most basic documents such as a full birth certificate. Brothers and sisters were frequently separated on the docks and sent to institutions in different parts of the country; some were finger-printed and then loaded onto the backs of trucks for long journeys to institutions in remote regions, only to be put to work as labourers the next day. Many felt an extreme sense of rejection by their family and country of origin or both. Others felt rather like characters from one of Kafka's novels; their sentence was obvious - exile from their family and homeland - but the nature of their crime was a complete mystery.
The tragic reality for many child migrants was appalling standards of care which fell well below accepted standards found within British institutions. Far too many children experienced practices and policies which would not have been tolerated by British child care agencies in that era. Children as young as seven, sent to institutions in Western Australia, were involved in construction works without adequate food or basic safety measures. Many were injured in building accidents at an age when they would have been in school or playing with their friends if they had remained in the United Kingdom.
The film is available on DVD through Amazon.co.uk †and Amazon.com. If you follow those links you'll also find Margaret Humphreys' book, which is available as a paperback or in Kindle format. I haven't seen the film yet (I'll be tuning in this evening) - but if the Amazon reviewers' comments are anything to go by it will be inspirational.
For the past 5 years findmypast (and its associated sites) have been the only online source of the Outgoing Ships' Passenger Lists compiled by the Board of Trade between 1890 and 1960 - so I was surprised to discover that Ancestry added these records last week.
Unfortunately I still can't find an entry for my great uncle, who is believed to have gone to Canada (where he died in a logging accident), but it's always useful to have a second source for key records such as these.
The oldest underground railway in the world is in London. Affectionally known as "the tube" the network of railways under the capital originally used steam trains to haul passengers under the city streets - goodness knows what Health & Safety inspectors would say about that these days (there were enough health concerns at the time)!
The London Underground map, designed by Harry Beck in 1931, and first introduced in 1933, is a design icon that has been imitated many times. On Thursday, the 150th anniversary, Google changed its logo to one that paid homage to the tube map.
If you follow this link you'll find a collection of articles about the history of the tube. I also enjoyed Christian Wolmar's book which not only covers the historical and social aspects, but also the political angles, and the competition between the different railways that criss-crossed the capital. †
As a young child I always listened to Listen With Mother on the BBC Home Service, so I was sad to hear of the death of Daphne Oxenford, who must have said the magic words "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin" many thousands times during her 20-odd years in the role.
However, it wasn't until I read her obituary that I realised what a long and varied career she had - she was nearly 90 when she played her last role in 2008. I'd like to think that at her funeral they played Berceuse, the theme tune from Listen With Mother.
Perhaps the most important new release of 2013 will be the British Library collection of Electoral Registers, which is being digitised by findmypast (you'll find the original announcement from 2011 here). If, like me, you've found some of your ancestors in the London Electoral Registers at Ancestry, or in the Midlands Electoral Registers at the same site, you'll know how useful it can be to be able to trace their movements year by year (particularly during the early 20th century - in the 19th century far fewer people were entitled to vote).
However, for some researchers the records of baptisms, marriages, and burials from the archives of the British India Office, also now held by the British Library, will be an even more important event - tracking ancestors who lived and worked overseas can be incredibly difficult.
According to the original press release from the British Library, these two projects involve the digitisation of 5 millions pages of records, and my guess is that there will be hundreds of millions of names!
It's your last chance to claim the 50 free credits, worth over £5, that findmypast are giving as a Christmas gift to readers of this newsletter.
Tip: you can circulate this offer to your friends and relatives, but to make sure they get their credits they'll need to register as LostCousins members before taking up the findmypast offer. Just email them this link: http://lostcousins.com/newsletters/jan13news.htm#FreeCredits
This isn't one of those so-called free offers where you'll be asked to provide your credit card details - there are no catches (although you will have to register with findmypast, of course). To find out how to claim your free credits follow this link to my Christmas newsletter. Of course, you can only claim once - findmypast may be generous, but they're not stupid.
Even if you already have a findmypast subscription you can use the credits to access records that aren't included in your subscription - it's a great opportunity to check out the new World records, or to find living relatives with a search of the current Electoral Register.
Note: according to my calculations, if every reader of this newsletter claims their 50 credits that's over £300,000 worth of credits in all - not bad for a late Christmas present!
Until the end of the January you can get a free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) when you save 10% on ANY subscription at findmypast.co.uk by clicking here and entering the offer code LCXMAS in the promotional code box at the left hand side of the Subscribe page.
Since you can save £16 on a 12 month World subscription your TOTAL savings could be as much as £28.50!
Tip: if you want to share this offer with other researchers, don't simply pass on the code. Instead, please send them a link to this newsletter - that way they might be inspired to link up with their own 'lost cousins'.
I recommend you read the following instructions all the way through before starting the process, because there are some important bits at the end.
(1) Click here to go the findmypast website (it will open in a new tab or browser window), then either register or log-in (if you have registered previously). If you aren't taken to the Subscribe page automatically, click Subscribe in the top right hand corner.
(2) Enter the exclusive offer code LCXMAS in the Promotional Code box, and click Apply to display the discounted offer prices.
(3) Choose the subscription that's best for you, bearing in mind that 12 month subscriptions offer by far the best value (because the second 6 months is almost half price).
If you're only interested in British records then I'd strongly recommend the Full subscription rather than the Foundation subscription, which only offers basic records and is therefore most suitable for beginners. The wealth of additional datasets you get with a Full subscription are well worth the small additional cost, especially when you consider that a subscription to just one of them - the newspaper collection - would cost £79.95 if purchased separately.
(4) If during the process you are logged out for any reason, or if your credit card isn't accepted, you must start again at step (1) to ensure that you qualify for your free LostCousins subscription.
(5) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast forward a copy to me so that I can verify your entitlement (you won't find my email address on the website, but it is in the email I sent telling you about this newsletter). Your free LostCousins subscription will run for 6 or 12 months and can include your spouse or partner as well - just make sure that the two accounts are linked together before you write to me (the Subscribe page at the LostCousins site explains how to do this). If you already have a LostCousins subscription I'll extend it.
If you have been forwarded this newsletter by a friend or relative you'll need to register as a LostCousins member before claiming your free subscription.
Note: these offers cannot be combined with any other offers (other than the free credits offer above) or discounts or backdated; if your findmypast subscription is renewed automatically you won't qualify, but providing you follow the steps above you may qualify for a free LostCousins subscription when you upgrade, eg from Foundation to Full, or from Full to World.
In my last newsletter I published an article about Thomas Drisdell, a scalemaker working in London, who despite living in poverty and dying in the workhouse in 1823, turned out - according to a contemporary newspaper account - to have been very rich (you can read it again here).
It's amazing what LostCousins members can achieve - within days of the article appearing I had an email from Shaun, who was able to demonstrate using probate records and the burial register for St James, Clerkenwell that Thomas Drisdell was really Robert Tristram. Indeed, the correct name had been published in other newspapers a few days earlier!
Note: the main question I posed was "Who was Mary Ann Thompson?" (the beneficiary of Drisdell/Tristram's will). The next step is to get a copy of Tristram's will and see precisely what it says about her.
There has been an amazing response to the challenge I set members over Christmas - to attempt to identify the owner(s) of a Birthday Book which appears to date from the late 19th or early 20th century. I've been very impressed by the entries so far, but I'm not yet convinced that anyone has found the right answer. Perhaps with the final instalment the pieces will fall into place?
As the final instalment is rather large - there are 17 more entries - I've created a separate web page for them, which you'll find by clicking here (you may find you have to refresh the page by pressing F5 in order to see all of the images, possibly more than once).
I've written in the past about Genealogists for Families, a group of researchers who have banded together to lend small amounts of money through the Kiva website to poor people in the developing world who are trying to improve their lot through hard work - and I'm delighted to say that so far LostCousins members have made an amazing 336 loans!
For $25, about £16, you can help change someone's life. And, because it's a loan, when they repay it you can lend the money to somebody else! To become part of this wonderful humanitarian project simply follow this link.
The UKBMD website has links to all of the local BMD projects in England & Wales - it's an easy way to find out whether local indexes of births, marriages, and deaths exist for the areas where your ancestors lived.
Now that it's so easy to search the GRO indexes, which cover the whole country, you might be wondering why local indexes are relevant - and yet they can be an incredibly valuable resource.
For a start, some events don't appear in the GRO indexes or are grossly misrepresented - and even if errors and omissions are pointed out, the online indexes don't change. But the main reason I find local GRO indexes useful is the inclusion of additional fields that aren't recorded in the GRO indexes (or were only added in the 20th century, such as the spouse's surname, or the mother's maiden name). Often the extra information in the index can remove the need to buy a certificate - a big saving these days!
UKBMD is one of those sites I don't write about very often - because, like FreeBMD or GENUKI, it's one of those sites that I assume everyone already uses. Make sure that you find out about the local indexes for the areas of interest to you!
Note: The Genealogist's Internet (now in its 5th edition) is a great guide to websites that you might otherwise have missed.
I often get emails from members asking why the online GRO indexes only go up to 2005 (or 2006 in the case of the births and deaths at findmypast).
The simple fact is that the GRO are covering their a***s. After many years of making these indexes available online the GRO suddenly discovered that the relevant Acts didnít say anything about online indexes - hardly surprising because they were all passed long before the World Wide Web came into existence (in 1836 the adhesive postage stamp had yet to be invented).
It is possible to search later indexes, but only on microfiche and only at six locations in England and one in Wales (there's a list here). There are so many people who are unable to visit in person - because they live too far away or are housebound - that I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who lives close to one of the complete indexes (within walking distance or bus pass area) and would be prepared to undertake lookups on behalf of others.
Next year is the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1. If you're trying to find information about one of your relatives it's well worth visiting the Long Long Trail website, which has an excellent guide to finding and interpreting Army records from this period. For example, many of us have found medal index cards, but do we know what all the notation means?
Nowadays most people don't bother buying a camera because they can use their phone to take photographs - yet 200 years ago neither phones nor cameras had been invented, and if you wanted a visual reminder of someone you'd commission a portrait painter!
Three years ago I ran a series of articles I this newsletter in an attempt to discover the oldest person who had been photographed - and LostCousins members, resourceful as ever, came up with several examples of people who were born in the 1750s (the articles can be found using the index for 2009-2010 - see the link at the start of this newsletter).
In 1889 the German Field Marshall Helmuth von Molkte was recorded congratulating Thomas Edison on the invention of the phonograph - you can hear this recording on YouTube. Von Moltke was born in 1800, and this is the only sound recording to survive of someone who was born that long ago.
Note: on a recent edition of QI, the quiz programme, it was claimed that von Moltke was born in 1798, but they seem to have confused him with the Danish Count, Karl von Moltke - however I'm getting my information from the Internet, so I could also be wrong!
In December 2010, I filmed my 94 year-old father using one of the first 3D camcorders. I did briefly wonder whether my late father, who was born in 1916, was the oldest person to have been recorded in three-dimensions - but then I discovered on Wikipedia that the first 3D footage was recorded in 1915, before my father was even born!
Are you recording members of your family? With all these technological resources available to us it would be a shame if we didn't make use of them!
According to exercise scientist Dr John Buckley at the University of Chester, office workers can lose 8lb a year simply by standing up for an extra three hours a day (I guess the same would apply to family historians who sit in front of their computer or a microfiche reader for hours on end). There's an article on the BBC News site here.
I can't vouch for the accuracy of Dr Buckley's recommendations, but I do know that exercising is a great way to lose weight - and you get fitter at the same time. I use a fitness program called EA Sports Active 2 which works on the Nintendo Wii (though there are also versions for the PS3 and Xbox 360). The program not only works out the exercise routines, it also checks that I'm doing the exercises correctly.
Mind you, I've found that it's an awful lot easier to take control of my weight by keeping an eye on what I eat - even a tough 40 minute work-out only uses up 250-300 calories, and there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. When you consider that there are 71 calories in a single plain digestive biscuit and 124 in a slice of wholemeal bread (even before it's buttered), it is clearly easier not to eat so much in the first place!
I know that I'm getting something right when I get angry emails from members - if my newsletter wasn't thought-provoking as well as informative I wouldn't be doing my job properly. In my last Tips column I wrote how, by buying food from the reductions shelves at the supermarket, I was able to serve up a four course gourmet meal on New Year's Eve for less than the cost of a breakfast at Little Chef - and I was promptly criticised for encouraging food wastage.
It is true that a lot of food is wasted, but buying food that would otherwise be thrown away isn't part of the problem - it's part of the solution! And, as I said to my correspondent, people of my generation aren't ones to waste food. My mother would tell me that I had to eat everything in my plate "because of all the hungry children in China", and I wouldn't have dreamt of doing anything else. But these days children with food fads are indulged and pampered - it's no wonder that more food is being wasted than ever before.
Another correspondent criticised my frequent mentions of Amazon, on the grounds that their European headquarters are in Luxembourg, which means that they only charge 3% VAT on electronic books, rather than 20%. Reprehensible? Maybe, until you remember that in the UK there's no VAT at all on printed books - so arguably Amazon are simply levelling out the playing field.
And after all, which of us is going to refuse to take out an Ancestry subscription simply because their European headquarters are also in Luxembourg - which means that they charge 15% VAT on subscriptions instead of 20%?
Of course, most of the emails I receive are complimentary, and I couldn't help blushing when I read this note from Rachel:
"I just wanted to thank you, not only for the excellent newsletter, but all the many tips that have saved me and my family this past year, including buying stamps online before they went up (we still have many left) and the offer code for my Find My Past sub. And all the Tesco tips, plus book recommendations. I too could not live without Amazon and my Kindle (well, my iPad too if I'm honest). I have just started the first book by Steve Robinson which I'm enjoying (especially as it's based in my home county)."
Thank you, Rachel, and thank you to the thousands of members who have written to express their appreciation over the past 12 months.
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
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