Newsletter - 24 August 2012

 

 

LostCousins is TOTALLY free over the holiday weekend

1911 Census free at Ancestry

GRO vs local registrars

Errors on marriage certificates (continued)

A Boy Named Sue?

Is the answer staring you in the face?

Brick wall #3: Mary Pike

Brick wall #4: Peter Lawden

Are you up against a 'brick wall' of your own?

Find your US cousins now!

British Library electoral registers delayed to 2013

Pinpointing parishes in 1851

The oldest family on the planet

Using case studies and challenges to train others

How to get in touch

Peter's Tips

Stop Press

 

 

The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 11 August 2012) please click here; for an index to articles from 2009-10 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!

 

 

LostCousins is TOTALLY free over the holiday weekend

From now until midnight on Monday 27 August you can contact any new relatives you find at LostCousins whether you have bought a subscription or not!

 

Normally you'd need to be a subscriber to initiate contact with someone new and, whilst a subscription only costs £10 for a whole year (or £12.50 for a joint subscription that covers two accounts), in times like these we all like to save money (which is probably why my tips column is so popular!).

 

To take full advantage of this opportunity add as many entries as you can to your My Ancestors page - every entry is a potential link to a 'lost cousin'. Once you've entered all of your direct ancestors from each line, together with their households, the next step is to add their extended families - because it's the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own at the time of the census who are most likely to link you to your 'lost cousins'.

 

Don't forget to click the Search button when you've finished entering relatives!

 

Tip: more LostCousins members have entered relatives from 1881 than from all the other censuses put together - so that's the census most likely to link you to your 'lost cousins'. The best strategy is to enter all the blood relatives you can find in 1881, no matter how distant, before moving on to other censuses.

 

1911 Census free at Ancestry

Until 2 November Ancestry.co.uk are offering free access to the England & Wales 1911 census - both transcriptions and images. Click here to go straight to the Search page.

 

This is a great opportunity to find your relatives in 1911 and add them to your My Ancestors page - but make sure you write down the Piece number shown in the transcription as it isn't given on the census form (whereas the Schedule number usually is).

 

Note: although access is free, you may need to register. However you won't be asked to provide credit card details.

 

GRO vs local registrars

What's so special about the General Register Office? It's surely not the registers they hold, which are compiled from copies of the pages in the registers held locally - which is why you'll rarely see your ancestor's handwriting on a certificate from the GRO.

 

No, the GRO's key asset is their indexes, which cover the whole of England & Wales. The convenience of ordering certificates from a single source, rather than ordering from separate local register offices (some of which may not accept credit card payments, or take orders over the Internet or by telephone) is another factor that encourages researchers to order certificates from the GRO.

 

However, as more and more registrars allow volunteers to compile indexes of events in their area the local option is becoming increasingly attractive, because many of the locally-compiled indexes contain more information than the GRO indexes - reducing the chance of ordering the wrong certificate, and increasing the opportunities for researchers to find out what they need to know without ordering a certificate. Furthermore, the GRO indexes cannot possibly be complete or totally accurate - see this article for some of the reasons why - so to have independently compiled local indexes is incredibly useful to researchers.

 

Cheshire was the first county to produce local indexes (in 2000), and Shropshire is one of the most recent (the project is still at an early stage). The UKBMD site provides links to local indexes around England and Wales: click here to see a list of areas for which local indexes are available online.

 

The GRO fiercely guards access to its registers of births, marriages, and deaths - but many Superintendent Registrars have been prepared to allow volunteers to view registers in order to compile the more detailed local indexes. Isn't it strange that two parts of the same system could come up with such different answers?

 

Many thanks to Barbara, a LostCousins member who is a supporter of the Lancashire BMD project, for patiently answering so many of the questions I posed when I was researching this article.

 

Errors on marriage certificates (continued)

I should hope that by now everyone reading this newsletter is well aware that just because it doesn't say 'Deceased' alongside the name of the father of the bride or groom it doesn't mean that they were still alive at the time of the wedding.

 

But when a father is shown as deceased you would tend to believe it, wouldn't you? And so would I - until I received this email from LostCousins member Chris:

 

"My maternal grandfather had three successive partners but only married the first, by whom he had two daughters in 1911 and 1914. During the War he left his wife for another woman, my grandmother, but he never divorced his wife, nor did he marry again (he was apparently a philanderer but not a bigamist). Just before WW2 he met a third partner and spent the rest of his life with her until his death in 1969.

 

"GRO records show that his wife and two legitimate daughters carried on their lives without him, and the younger of the daughters married in 1945. When I obtained her marriage certificate, I was surprised to find that her father was described as deceased. In that same year, he had opened a jeweller's shop in north Devon and the top floor flat over the shop was occupied by my parents - I was born the next year and spent the first 7 or 8 years of my life in this house. Presumably his abandoned wife had told her young daughters that he had died (probably that he was missing in action in WW1) rather than tell them that he had left them for another woman.

 

"Sadly, I have never been able to contact the son of that married daughter and let him - my half-cousin - know, tactfully, what really happened to his grandfather."

 

But Chris wasn't the only one with an example like this in his tree - I also received this email from Sarah:

 

"My Great Grandfather is entered on my Great Uncle's marriage certificate as being deceased, and yet a few years later, when my Grandfather married, he is miraculously alive again and a 'Master Builder' . (He was a bricklayer by trade, so this may be a touch of embellishment.)

 

"After a lot of detective work, it transpires that Great Grandfather had set up as a Licensed Victualler some time before my Great Uncle married, and had subsequently absconded with his favourite barmaid to a faraway county. She had borne him an illegitimate child.

 

"Meanwhile, back at home, the rumour that my Great Grandfather had been run over by a tram and killed had been circulated, and his wife, my Great Grandmother, was left to care alone for their five children, ranging from a teenager to a baby of a few months.

 

"On the 1911 census my Great Grandfather, the barmaid, and their infant child are listed, and they state that they have been married 7 years (which is the amount of time since they had disappeared from home).

 

"In September 1911, six months after his wife had died of consumption, and his children had been scattered to the four winds, my Great Grandfather returned to his home town as if nothing had happened, set up in the pub trade again, and married the barmaid. They then went on to have another child, and stayed in the same town for the rest of their lives.

 

"Another interesting thing that matches one of your comments is that 'the barmaid', my Great Grandfathers second wife, was always known as a staunch Catholic and stood for zero immorality in the family. When one of her daughters divorced and then remarried, she was incensed! Little did they realise that she was in fact no angel herself, and had run off with another woman's husband and borne an illegitimate child."

 

Last week Fiona told me of an example in her tree where the name shown on the marriage certificate was a combination of the bride's father's name and her stepfather's name. This is quite a common problem, but that certainly doesn't make it any easier to unravel when it occurs! The important thing is to treat all information sceptically until you are able to find information from an independent source that corroborates it.

 

My direct experience of errors on marriage certificates has been entirely with English and Welsh certificates, so I'd be interested to hear from members with Scottish ancestry about their experiences. Scottish marriage certificates include the names of the couple's mothers (including their maiden names), but more information doesn't necessarily mean that it's more accurate.

 

Note: you can see an example register page at the Scotlandspeople site.

 

A Boy Named Sue?

I mentioned in the last newsletter how when Joseph Carpenter married in 1873 he gave his father's name as Hannah. This prompted LostCousins member Susan to write to me with an example from her own research - when John Hope married Alice Byrom in 1852 he gave his father's name as Ellen.

 

In each case the grooms were illegitimate, and gave their mother's name - but that wasn't the only error on John Hope's marriage certificate. His bride said her father was Thomas Byrom, whilst in reality she was the illegitimate daughter of the unmarried Jane Byrom.

 

Is the answer staring you in the face?

In June and July I ran two challenges in which members were invited to solve 'brick walls'. Some members solved them very quickly, but others struggled for hours or even days - and some are still puzzling over them even now!

File:Twisted lip.jpg

Why is that some people can solve a problem in minutes that others have worked on for years? I can do no better than quote the words of Sherlock Holmes, as set down by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

 

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth"

 

Sherlock Holmes was a great exponent of lateral thinking, a problem-solving technique that requires little more than the ability to look around, rather than blindly following a fixed path. We can all do it, but the more practice you have the more natural it becomes.

 

For example, suppose that you couldn't find your ancestor's birth in the GRO indexes. Would you assume that the birth hadn't been registered (some weren't, after all)? Psychologically it's a neat solution, because it lays the blame for your failure on others - but if you're serious about researching your family tree you can't afford luxuries like this.

 

Instead why not, as Sherlock Holmes would almost certainly do in your position, wonder whether you might be looking in the wrong place, or at the wrong time, or for the wrong name? I accept that this can be difficult - when you accept that some of the information you already have might be wrong it can seem as if you're taking a step backwards - but consider how much more dangerous it is to over-rely on information that might be false.

 

Thirty years ago police investigating the 'Yorkshire Ripper' murders believed that an audio tape sent to them had come from the murderer - and as a result they overlooked the true culprit, even though they interviewed him eleven times prior to his arrest. Four further attacks took place after that eleventh interview, and two of those victims died: your blind faith in the evidence might not cost lives, but it can fatally undermine your research.

 

When it comes to family trees, sometimes you literally do need to think laterally - in other words, you need to go sideways rather than up or down. If you can't identify your ancestor's birth in the GRO indexes, surely it makes sense to look for their siblings? And if you can't find them either, isn't that telling you something?

 

Last month I challenged members to find Gifford Few on the 1881 Census. Some solved the challenge very quickly, but others didn't - and the big difference was that the latter group didn't think outside the box. Whilst I challenged you to look for Gifford Few in 1881, I didn't prohibit you from looking at other censuses - and if you had you'd have quickly discovered that nobody called Gifford Few ever appears on any census.

 

I got several emails from members who professed themselves beaten by the challenge - and yet I knew from their description of how they'd searched that they'd already seen the answer. They just hadn't recognised it!

 

Have you ever ignored the right answer because it didn't appear to fit the facts? In the next article I'm going to give you an example that I came across earlier this month.

 

Brick wall #3: Mary Pike

Graham wrote to me about a "huge brick wall" in his family tree. I'll give you the facts as he presented them to me - let's see what you make of them!

 

"My Great Grandmother Mary Pike married my Great Grandfather Henry William Coward in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia on 27 July 1882. Before that time it appears that she did not exist.

 

"According to her marriage certificate, Mary was born about 1855-56 in St Columb, (Major? or Minor?) Cornwall. Her parents were John Pike (deceased), an Exciseman and Christiana Hocking. Her name does not appear in any shipping records. I have not been able to find Mary or her parents in any English records. There are people who meet some of the requirements but no one I can conclusively claim.

 

"One likely candidate appears in the 1851 and 1861 censuses of St Columb Major. In 1851 a 4 year old Maryjane Pike, born St Columb Major was living as a lodger with Elizabeth Harris, a 67 year old char woman and three of her adult children. She appears again in 1861 as 13 year old Mary J Pike, born St Columb Major. This time she is a lodger with a 40 year old carpenter named John Barry, his wife and daughter. Thereafter she disappears. No record of a death or marriage in England can be found.

 

"Perhaps there is a clue here: According to family legend, Mary had worked for a wealthy family as a governess and travelled on the Continent with them. In fact the family still has a Passport issued by the British Embassy in Switzerland to a 'Miss Mary Pike' on 2 July 1874. There are no stamps or any other indications that it was ever used. It has not even been signed by Mary.

 

"On the night of the 1861 census a 31 year old widow named Christiana Pike, born at Wimborne Minster was working as a nurse in the London home of a wealthy merchant named William Angerstein. On 25 September 1854 at Sturminster Marshall, in the District of Wimborne, Devon, a John Pike, a Butcher of Binstead, Isle of Wight married a Christiana Lidford of Sturminster Marshall. Wimborne Minster is only about 5 miles from Sturminster Marshall. In the December Quarter of 1854 a John Pike died on the Isle of Wight. These records all appear to relate to the same John and Christiana Pike. Could this Christiana have been Mary's mother? Could it be that Mary took her mother's job with the Angersteins?

 

"Neither the Angersteins, Mary (Jane), nor Christiana appear in the 1871 census and in 1881 the Angersteins can be found at their country property at Weeting in Norfolk. Perhaps the Angersteins were abroad in 1871 and Christiana and/or Mary were with them.

 

"Interestingly, a search of Excise Service records reveals that at least two men named John Pike were officers of the Service in the mid 19th Century. One was born at Limehouse in Middlesex about 1805. The other was born at Bow in Devon about 1812.

 

"It seems that someone was telling fibs. Was it Mary, her mother or someone else? Any assistance would be appreciated."

 

I've chosen this example because most of the parish records for Cornwall are available free at the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website - which means that you have access to the same records as I did when I came up with my solution.

 

What can you discover? Whilst this isn't a competition - in a few days' time I'll post my own my solution here - I hope you'll exercise your skills and judgment and come up with a theory of your own before you look at mine (indeed, you might even spot something I've missed).

 

Brick wall #4: Peter Lawden

At LostCousins we have members all over the world - and they have ancestors who came from all over the world. Kai Ove Gran in Norway sent me the story of how he traced his Scottish great-great grandfather (and I think you'll agree with me that Kai's English is excellent):

 

"My great grandfather Johan Peterson Gran was born in SnŚsa in Norway on the 27th of May, 1878. His father has always been a mystery to my family. I heard from my relatives that he was a Scotsman, but that was all that was known. Also, the middle name, Peterson, is a Norwegian patronymic (son of Peter), so I knew his father's first name was Peter. With the digitalization and publication of Norwegian church books (parish records), I got my first clues. Johan's father was recorded as Peter Lawden, unmarried, age unknown, departed Englishman.

 

"Finally, I had a name to look for, but no age. I did a search for Peter Lawden in the 1861 and 1871 censuses of Scotland, but got no matches. I also tried Googling the name, but nothing of relevance came up. I took decided to try genetic genealogy and took a DNA test. As this is my direct paternal line, I took the Y-DNA test and I also took an autosomal test, which covers all lines. I got no near matches on my Y-DNA test, but a few very distant Scottish matches on my autosomal test. One of my matches was kind enough to help me look for possible candidates and she found a Peter Lowden, Ship Master, born 1838 in Dundee. Johan's mother was born in 1841, so the age was within what was reasonable, and it wasn't unlikely that the Norwegian priest had written his surname with an 'a' instead of an 'o'. He could also easily have mistaken Scotsman for Englishman.

 

"Then came the big challenge; how could I prove or disprove that this was the correct Peter? Through Lloyd's Captains' Registers I learned that all Ship Masters had official numbers. These numbers were used on all documents related to voyages by the corresponding Ship Master.

 

"I started to read up on British Crew lists and learned that in 1966 the National Archives in London [Public Record Office] took the decision to discard part of the 'Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, the Agreements and Account of Crew and Official Logbooks' for British Empire vessels from 1861 to 1913. Luckily, many people protested this decision, and the records were sent to Newfoundland's Memorial University's Maritime History Archive (MHA). However, a significant number of crew agreements remained in Britain. The National Archives took a random 10% sample as well as the collection relating to celebrated ships, BT100. The National Maritime Museum took the years 1861 and 1862, and a decadal sample of all the years ending in five, e.g., 1865, 1875, 1885 etc. And county record offices and other repositories in Britain and Ireland took advantage of the opportunity to acquire crew agreements which were of particular interest to their geographical area.

 

"No knowing where 'my' documents could be, I contacted the MHA in Newfoundland as they had most of the records. Through their research service, for a small fee, they provided Peter Lowden's crew lists for 1876-1878. This is what I found: starting 20th of July 1877 in Dundee, a journey with the following description: '... to Archangel and back to a final port of discharge in the United Kingdom or on the Continent of Europe'; the voyage ends the 22nd of August 1877 in Dundee.

 

"I had proved that Peter Lowden sailed the Norwegian coast, from Dundee to Arkangelsk in Russia, nine months prior to Johan's birth! Through the internet I found living descendants of both Peter and his father. Through Y-DNA testing a descendant, I now know with 100% certainty that I have found the right person.

 

"I am so glad that the crew lists were not discarded in 1966!"

 

Can you imagine a more challenging 'brick wall' - an illegitimate child fathered by a sailor from a far-off land? What I find particularly interesting about this story is the way in which conventional research and DNA testing come together to provide a solution.

 

Note: I'll be writing in a future newsletter about the Y-DNA and Family Finder (autosomal DNA) tests that I recently took through Family Tree DNA. You can also search Crew Lists at findmypast, and whilst you won't find Peter Lowden amongst them you will find his son. For Norwegian records online click here.

 

Are you up against a 'brick wall' of your own?

I'm sure everyone reading this newsletter has 'brick walls' in their own tree - goodness me, I have dozens of them myself! But at what point should you ask for help in knocking down a 'brick wall', and who should you ask?

 

First make sure that the 'brick wall' isn't one of your own making - often we create problems for ourselves by failing to recognise that the information we're working with isn't as reliable as we'd like to think. You might be relying on a family story, on unsubstantiated data passed to you by another researcher, or on mere transcriptions of parish register entries. You may even have assumed that the information given on a marriage certificate is correct - though I doubt many readers of this newsletter will ever make that mistake again!

 

Once you've critically re-evaluated all the evidence and exposed any flaws in your previous assumptions, the next challenge is to search for new evidence. And it IS a challenge, because you must first overcome your despair! After all, if you couldn't find your ancestor's parents when you thought you knew his father's name, what chance do you have when you don't have a clue what his father's name really was? How will you know when you find the right parents?

 

This is the point at which you need to remind yourself how good you are at knocking down 'brick walls'. If you haven't already solved the challenges I set in June and July, or Brick Wall #3 in this newsletter, then now's the time to tackle them. Solving them will confirm that you not only have the right mindset to tackle a 'brick wall', but also the necessary skills, knowledge, and patience.

 

On the other hand, if you can't solve them, re-read all the 'brick wall' articles and case studies that I've published over the past three months, writing down the key points as you come across them, so that you have a checklist to work through. Then tackle the challenges again!

 

If you still can't knock down one of your 'brick walls' despite having proved that you have the skills to do so, it may be time to ask for help. But who should you ask? Clearly the people in the best position to help are the researchers who share that particular line - and they'll have a strong motivation to work with you since they are up against the same 'brick wall'. However, there's a valuable resource that we often ignore - the cousins who are researching other lines. Don't under-estimate how useful it can be to have someone looking at a problem with completely fresh eyes!

 

So do what you can to make and re-establish contacts with the other researchers who are your cousins - start by completing your My Ancestors page, remembering that whether your 'brick wall' is in the 17th, 18th, 19th, or even the 20th century, itís the 1881 Census that is most likely to leadyou to the 'lost cousins' who can help.

 

From time to time I'm also able to help members knock down their 'brick walls', as I did for Marilyn (June challenge) and Graham (Mary Pike case study above). But even if I didn't have so many 'brick walls' of my own I still wouldn't be able to help every LostCousins member with their 'brick walls' - this newsletter goes out to 60,000 members, but there are less than 8,800 hours in a year (and I obviously can't spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week dealing with emails from members because I have to eat, sleep - and write newsletters!).

 

That's why the aim of the articles and the challenges that have featured in this newsletter since June is to show you how to knock down your own 'brick walls'. I'll continue to give individual help, as I have done for more than 8 years - but I'm obviously going to give priority to people who have demonstrated that they need my help by completing the challenges I've set, and by completing their My Ancestors page.

 

Tip: if you do decide to write in, then the more clearly you set out the facts the more likely I am to be able to help you - but please remember to tell me where the information comes from, and whether it has been independently verified, otherwise I won't know how credible it is.

 

Find your US cousins now!

You can now enter relatives who were recorded in the 1940 US census on your My Ancestors page. It's an opportunity to make connections that you might otherwise be unable to make - because so many migrants arrived in the US after the 1880 census (which is the only US census LostCousins has supported up to now).

 

Five of the eight censuses we use at LostCousins are available free online: US 1880 and 1940, Canada 1881, England & Wales 1881, and Ireland 1911 - this means you can find your living relatives without spending a penny (or a cent), whilst still benefiting from the privacy, security, and accurate automated matching that ONLY LostCousins offers.

 

Tip: several websites are offering free access to the 1940 US census, including FamilySearch, Ancestry, and findmypast.com. The information you enter on your My Ancestors page can be taken from any site, but please make sure you follow the advice on the Add Ancestor form.

 

British Newspaper Archive

 

British Library electoral registers delayed to 2013

In March 2011 there was an announcement that findmypast.co.uk would be digitizing 5 million pages from the British Library's collection of electoral registers and India Office records, and at that stage a 2012 launch date was suggested. However I've just heard from LostCousins member Sheila, who contacted the British Library, that February 2013 is the date they are currently working to.

 

Pinpointing parishes in 1851

When I was researching my Suffolk ancestry at the Bury St Edmund's Record Office one of the most important guides was a county map showing the individual parishes. When you're trying to figure out where an ancestor was baptised, or where his parents married, it's very handy to be able to see which parishes are next to each other.

 

LostCousins member Paul reminded me recently that the new FamilySearch site has an interactive online map which not only shows the boundary of each parish, but identifies the Registration District, Diocese, Poor Law Union, and even the Probate Court. Hidden away under the unprepossessing name 'England Jurisdictions 1851' you could easily fail to realise how valuable a resource it is!

 

If you're trying to work out the Registration District in which a particular town or village falls please bear in mind that there were numerous changes in boundaries. There's an excellent index in PDF format that you can download from this page on the GENUKI site.

 

Another tool I use is the ParLoc parish locator program, which you can download free here. It will calculate the approximate distance between any two parishes, and also provide a list of parishes within a given range of another parish.

 

The oldest family on the planet

According to Guinness World Records a family of 9 brothers and sisters in Sardinia has the oldest combined for 9 living siblings. Ranging from 105 down to a youthful 78, their total age is 818 years.There's a photo of Consolata Melis, the eldest, on the BBC news site.

 

Using case studies and challenges to train others

LostCousins member Lawrence wrote to tell me that he will be using my July challenge with his two U3A family history groups.

 

I think that's an excellent idea - and I'm sure other family history groups could make use of them!

 

Note: if you take part in my challenges please don't post information on the Internet that will spoil them for others. I appreciate that you want everyone to know how clever you are, but just remember - I got there first!

 

How to get in touch

You won't find my email address on the LostCousins website, and because this newsletter is published online you won't find it here either - I get enough spam as it is!

 

But every email that you receive from me or from LostCousins (including the email that announced the release of this newsletter) comes from an email address that you can write to - unlike some websites I don't send out emails from addresses that don't accept incoming mail. Of course, since there's nobody else here at LostCousins I'll read your email whichever of the addresses you use!

 

A few tips:

 

(1) If you 'reply' to one of my emails, please alter the subject line if it isn't relevant - you're more likely to get a prompt response if I know what you're writing about.

 

(2) If you 'reply' to a round-robin email, please DON'T include the original text unless it is relevant. However....

 

(3) If you are replying to an individual email that I sent to you please DO include the text of my email, otherwise I could spend half my time looking for our previous correspondence. I receive hundreds of emails from members every week, many of them quite detailed, so I can't rely on my memory.

 

(4) Don't use 'snail mail'. Not only will it take longer to reach me, I'll almost certainly take much longer to reply - if your letter doesn't get lost on my desk!

 

Peter's Tips

Samuel Goldwyn is reputed to have said that "a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on", but when I started work in the City in 1972 the motto on the coat of arms of the London Stock Exchange was 'Dictum Meum Pactum' (my word is my bond) - and indeed, that was how things worked in those days.

 

Goodness me, how things have changed in the financial world since then! Nearly 10 years ago, before LostCousins was even a twinkle in my eye, I opened a business account with Abbey National - who generously promised that provided I kept within certain limitations it would be free forever. Abbey National got taken over by Santander, and the colour of the cheques changed, but they continued attracting new accountholders with the 'free forever' slogan until 2010.

 

Well, diamonds may be forever, but it seems that banks' promises are about as durable as a chocolate teapot - because this year Santander decided that the 230,000 small (and, in my case, very small) businesses with free accounts should be switched to a new account with a £7.50 per month charge. Santander UK's Chief Executive received a salary package worth over £4 million last year.

 

Abbey National was originally a building society, owned by its members. The largest building society remaining in Britain is Nationwide, and - unlike Santander - they really do care about their customers. For example, they've just introduced a Regular Savings Account which pays 6% interest until October 2013 (you must be an existing FlexAccount holder).

 

If you can't take advantage of an exceptional offer like that the next best thing is to make sure you're not paying too much tax on your savings. This means not only making use of your annual ISA allowance, but also checking whether you might qualify for a reduced tax rate of 10% on your savings. I won't go into the details, because there's a detailed explanation on the HMRC site here, but broadly-speaking if your total income exceeds your personal allowance by less than £2,320 then you shouldn't pay more than 10% tax on your savings income (ie bank and building society interest). However, banks and building societies routinely deduct 20% tax - so you may be due a refund!

 

Staying with savings and investments, you may recall that last month I mentioned that I was looking at a website called Zopa which enables ordinary people like you and me to lend or borrow money - and I'm glad to say that all of the LostCousins members who had tried Zopa reported positive experiences (most had been members for a few years).

 

I recently watched a Channel 4 series called Bank of Dave which followed the attempts of a Burnley man to set up a bank so that local people could get a good rate on their savings and local businesses could borrow the money they needed to expand. Burnley Savings and Loans (he wasn't allowed to use the word 'bank') pays savers 5%, but there are so many people looking to invest that they aren't accepting any more money until March 2014!

 

I've decided to stick with Zopa, where I will earn about 5% on the money I've lent (after taking costs into account and making a provision for bad debts). It's slightly more risky than putting my money in the bank, but as well as earning a little extra interest I've got the satisfaction of knowing that I'm helping people - the rates for borrowers are much lower than they'd pay if they borrowed from a bank. I only lend £10 to each person, so the risk is well-spread. To find out more about Zopa click here (UK residents only, I'm afraid).

 

Time for some family history savings! First let me warn you that now is NOT the ideal time to buy Family Tree Maker 2012 Platinum Edition because the price has shot up to nearly £40.

 

However, you can still buy Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum Edition for about £25, which makes it a very cheap way for UK members to subscribe to Ancestry (you get a free 6 month Premium subscription, which provides unlimited access to all of Ancestry's UK records).

 

I'm not recommending the software - I've never used it - it's simply the cheapest way for someone in the UK to get an Ancestry Premium subscription.

 

Remember if you don't live in the UK, but subscribe to Ancestry, you can almost certainly get a better deal by switching to the UK site when your current subscription expires. Full details were in my June newsletter here.

 

Tip: if you want to show your appreciation for these newsletters, or for the money-saving tips, one of the best ways to do this is to click on the links or use the Amazon search at the end of this newsletter - because if you subsequently make a purchase we might get some commission!

 

Finally, an offer for anyone in the UK with a well-aged sense of humour: it's an opportunity to get a 12 issue subscription to The Oldie AND a LostCousins subscription for £22.50 - the same price you'd pay at the newsagents for just 6 issues of The Oldie. To take advantage of this offer go to the Subscribe page at LostCousins, enter the offer code OLDIE and click Calculate. Your LostCousins subscription will be processed automatically, but I will process your magazine subscription manually.

 

Note: this offer ends on 29 August and you must pay by credit card, debit card, or PayPal as cheques may not arrive in time. You cannot take up this offer if you or someone in your household has been an Oldie subscriber at any time since September 2010. Your first magazine will be the October 2012 issue.

 

Stop Press

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

 

I hope you've found this newsletter interesting and that I've inspired you to take a new approach to knocking down your 'brick walls'.

 

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver

 

You may link to this newsletter, and I have included bookmarks so you can - if you wish - link to a specific article by copying the relevant entry in the list of contents at the beginning of the newsletter. However, please email me first if you would like to re-publish any part of the newsletter on your own website or in any other format.