Newsletter - 29 June 2012
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!
Just a few days after my last newsletter, in which I explained how it was still possible to access the old FamilySearch site, it disappeared - probably for ever. Like it or not, we're going to have to learn how to get the most out of the new site which, to be fair, does have some significant advantages - even if it does mean re-learning how we do things.
The fact is, the old site was even harder to use - it's just that most of us eventually discovered how to make the most of what was there. We've done it once - we can do it again!
Note: I've been told that one of the reasons for closing the old site was the cost and unreliability of the ancient hardware. Apparently it cost over $100,000 per month to keep going!
Until Monday 2nd July Ancestry Canada are offering free access to several of their Canadian record sets. Unfortunately I couldn't find a definitive list of exactly what's included, but I was certainly able to view records from the 1871 Census and the Ontario Birth, Marriage and Death collections - and I got to see the handwritten images, not just the transcripts (as sometimes happens with Ancestry offers).
I suggest you do what I did and start by searching all Canadian records - you'll soon figure which records of interest to you are free and which ones aren't.
Tip: if you're tempted to subscribe to get full access to the records, remember that Ancestry's Canadian site charges a LOT more than the UK site for an identical Worldwide subscription. Click here to see the detailed article in my last newsletter which will save you about $80!
A lot of members are still struggling to get to grips with the new FamilySearch site, so here's a simple guide to finding your relatives who were in Canada in 1881. Start by clicking here, which will take you direct to the Search page:
One thing I do like about the new FamilySearch site is that it doesn't give you a Search form with lots of boxes to fill in. The fact is, the less information you enter, the more likely it is that the person you're looking for will show up, and if you get too many results you can use filtering to narrow them down.
However, when you're searching for someone who migrated to a different country it's not a bad idea to enter their country of origin as the birthplace:
When I clicked on Birth it opened an extra section on the form. You don't have to fill in all the boxes, but I decided to in this case. Here's what happened when I clicked Search:
Only one result - but as it's the right one, that doesn't matter. See that downward pointing arrow at the right? Clicking that will give you more details of the record - but you'll get even more information if you click on the person's name:
This shows the entire household. If you wish you can learn more about the other members of the family (birthplace, occupation etc) by clicking their names in turn, but for the purposes of LostCousins everything you need is on that one screen.
I've circled the census references that you'll be asked for on the Add Ancestor form. Note that if the 'division' reference is blank, as in this case, you can leave it blank. Very occasionally the sub-district is blank - when this happens follow the instructions on the form and enter XX in the box.
Note: FamilySearch doesn't have images of the handwritten census forms. Ancestry does, but they aren't included in the offer. However Library and Archives Canada currently offers free access to images from several census including 1881 (let's hope that their funding problems don't affect that!).
Do you have any relatives who were recorded on the 1881 Canada census? My great-great grandfather's Uncle Henry emigrated to Canada in the mid-19th century and when I entered his family on my My Ancestors page earlier today I was immediately linked with a cousin in Canada.
Until Monday 9th July you'll be able to connect with any cousins you find through the 1881 Canada census whether or not you're a LostCousins subscriber. And because all the information you need is free at FamilySearch, the whole process won't cost you a penny - or a cent.
Tip: if you have Canadian friends or relatives why not tell them about this offer? It's a great time to introduce them to the LostCousins way of doing things.
Here's how I entered Henry Butwell, the relative I found using FamilySearch (as described in the previous article):
Whoops - my secret is out! Now you know that when I fill in the Add Ancestor form I don't worry about niceties such as capital letters - I don't have to, because the first character of the surname, forename, and middle name are automatically capitalised.
Tip: it's only when you enter the first person from a household that you need to type in the census references - when you add a relative to an existing household most of the form is filled in, including the surname as well as the census references. Just as well, since the Canadian census has more references than any other!
Until Monday 9th July you'll be able to connect with any cousins you find at LostCousins through the 1880 US census whether or not you're a subscriber. All the information you need is free at FamilySearch, so the whole process won't cost you a cent.
Click here to go directly to the Search page at the new FamilySearch site (the Search procedure is exactly as described for the Canadian census). If you find relatives on the US census you'll obviously want to enter them on your My Ancestors page, so in the example below I've circled the census references that we use at LostCousins:
When you enter the film number omit the T9- prefix as this is the same for every entry (you can also omit any leading zeroes); in the page number field enter the page and page character together, as shown below.
Note: FamilySearch doesn't have images of the handwritten census forms, but all the information that LostCousins requires is in the transcription.
I was amazed how many members took up the challenge in my last newsletter - and how many found the right answer. But even more amazing were the emails from members who found the exercise so inspirational that they were looking at their own 'brick walls' through new eyes.
I originally intended to publish the solution in this issue - but I don't want to spoil the fun for members who haven't yet managed to find the time to have a try. So whilst I won't be accepting competition entries after Sunday 1st July, you've got until the publication of my next newsletter to find out how good you really are at knocking down 'brick walls'. You'll find all the details here.
Tip: you don't need to have a subscription to findmypast, Ancestry, or any other site to take part in the challenge - you can solve the mystery of Frederick Leonard Long using the GRO indexes at FreeBMD and the 1901 Census at FamilySearch. If you haven't found his birth registration after 30 minutes I suggest you brush up your puzzle-solving skills by re-reading my article 'Breaking down brick walls' in the last issue.
If you are a member of a family history forum or mailing list why not get them to take part in the challenge too? (Of course, they shouldn't post the answer online otherwise it will spoil it for everyone else.)
Finally, for those of you who have already solved my Long challenge, I have a Few more puzzles lined up (I hope the first will be in my next newsletter). ††
Findmypast have added a further 2 million Welsh parish records, which means there are now nearly 6 million on the site.
For full details, including a list of the parishes, click here.
The archives of British Telecom, which go back as far as the founding of the Electric Telegraph Company in 1846, are to be digitised and made available free for non-commercial use. At this stage it's difficult to say how much relevance they'll have for family historians (the phone directories are already online at Ancestry), but there's an article on the ZDnet site that has some examples from the archive.
In April I wrote about a Birmingham graveyard that's on the site earmarked for one of the HS2 terminals; now it seems that the mortal remains of as many as 50,000 individuals may be in the path of the new rail line. See this BBC News article for more details.
(Thanks to Richard for alerting me to this.)
If you are following LostCousins on Twitter you'll know about the BBC2 series that has tracked the way that six of the London streets mapped by Charles Booth in the late 19th century have changed over the course of the past 120 years. This week's programme focused on Portland Road in Notting Hill, which even in the last 50 years has changed dramatically - according to this article on the BBC website a house bought for under £12,000 in 1968 is now worth over £2m.
If you missed this week's programme (shown on Wednesday) it's being repeated on Tuesday of next week - and is also available online to viewers in the UK (as are the three earlier programmes).
On the subject of the changing landscape, I found an interesting article on the BBC website which looked at how much of Britain is urbanised, and how much remains rural. The inspiration for the article was the recent announcement that woodland now covers 12.7% of the UK, the highest figure since records began in 1924.
London's Foundling Museum tells the tale of the 25,000 children who passed through the Foundling Hospital between its foundation by Thomas Coram in 1739, and it's closure in 1954. Foundlings were often given surnames that related to the place where they were found, such as Chappell or Bridge, and a Google search for 'foundlings surnames' reveals that similar naming patterns occur in other countries (does Julio Iglesias have a foundling ancestor, I wonder?).
If you're having trouble finding your ancestor's parents, it's worth considering whether he or she may have been a foundling?
I imagine that, like me, you thought that foundlings were a thing of the past. But I recently learned that in Germany there are today around 200 places (Babyklappen, or baby hatches) where desperate mothers can leave their babies - the first opened in 2000 in Hamburg. Most of the abandoned babies (and there have been about one thousand so far) will never know who their parents were.
In 2006 I described in this newsletter how I had to wait nearly 6 months to receive a copy of my father's Army service record, and urged members not to delay sending off for the records of their own family members. I hope you followed my advice, because since then the situation has got worse - members have reported waiting for over a year!
The Veterans UK website has all the information you need to obtain a copy of the service records for yourself or a member of your family. There's usually a fee of £30, but this is waived if you are requesting your own records, or those of your spouse or partner. You'll need to provide a death certificate (unless the death occurred in service) and if the subject of the request died less than 25 years ago the information provided will be limited, unless the immediate next-of-kin gives consent.
Note: although I refer to World War 2 in the heading, the same procedure and charges apply for any serviceman or woman who served after World War 1.
For earlier records see this page on the National Archives website.
Since August 2011 there's been a petition online suggesting that the GRO could dramatically cut the cost of birth, marriage, and death certificates by offering them on plain paper - a cut from £9.25 to as little as £2 was implied.
Last September, in an article entitled Are e-petitions the answer? I pointed out that the cost of printing a certificate (including the special paper) is only 16p, a figure I had obtained from the GRO myself using the Freedom of Information Act, and which I had published in my May 2010 newsletter. Clearly using plain paper wouldn't make a ha'p'orth of difference to the cost!
But over the following months I got numerous emails from well-meaning members directing me to the same petition, so I wrote about it again in April this year, once again explaining why it was flawed and this time providing a link to another petition which had at least been properly thought out. And yet the emails continued to flood in, not helped by the fact that the Federation of Family History Societies recently promoted the flawed petition in a mailing.
Some people take the view that doing something is always better than doing nothing, but I don't. I know from experience that doing something in the wrong way can make it more difficult to achieve a goal - just as driving off in the wrong direction because you don't stop to ask for help takes you further away from your destination.
So, for the avoidance of doubt, I am aware of the e-petition (and have been for the past 10 months), but I strongly advise members NOT to sign it. It surely doesn't make sense to support a petition that doesn't make sense!
Let's suppose you uploaded your family tree to one of the many websites that offers online trees. How would you feel if that website then sold your tree to another website?
Did you realise that when you create an Ancestry family tree, even if it's a private tree, you "grant Ancestry a non-exclusive, transferable, sublicenseable, royalty-free license to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to and otherwise use such material, including, hosting and access on co-branded services of that material, and to use the data contained in that material as search results and to integrate that data into the Service as Ancestry deems appropriate"?
That comes from Ancestry's Terms and Conditions - which I suspect a lot of Ancestry users have never even read. The key words are transferable and sublicenseable. You might trust Ancestry with your data (just as, a few years ago, you might have trusted your bank), but can you be absolutely sure that Ancestry won't sublicense your information to someone who you don't trust?†
For example, Helen wrote to tell me how annoyed she was to discover her family tree at a site called Mundia. In this case the Mundia site is owned by Ancestry, but it might not have been - Helen had inadvertently given them the rights to license her information to absolutely anyone.
Interestingly, when I read the Mundia Terms and Conditions I noticed that - although they are broadly similar to Ancestry's - the word 'perpetual' has been added. This means that they can go on selling your data even after you've removed it from the site.
Now, before anyone accuses me of waging a vendetta against Ancestry, they aren't alone in this. Another site which claims to be "the world's largest family network" includes in their Service terms the provision "by posting content on the Website, you grant us a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual and non-exclusive license to host, copy, post and distribute such content."
You may recall that in my last newsletter I explained how overseas members can save by taking out a Worldwide subscription through Ancestry's UK site, instead of the site that's local to them.
I was delighted to receive an email from Vicki in Australia, who told me that as a result of following my advice she had paid $217.31 for her Worldwide membership, rather than the $449.95 that Ancestry Australia had wanted to charge. And because she was able to use the same log-in details she still had access to her tree.
You'll find full details of the savings and how to get them here.
I've been writing these newsletters for 8 years, and I plan to do so for decades to come. But I wonder if I'll ever match the achievements of Helen Brett, who celebrates her 103rd birthday next month, but is still a frequent contributor to The War Cry, which as anyone who frequents British pubs knows, is published by The Salvation Army?
When Helen married her husband Stan 63 years ago she was 40 and he was just 25. I bet the gossip-mongers in the neighbourhood said it would never last - and look how wrong they were!
Just because something is billed as a special offer doesn't mean there's anything special about it. For example, I received an email offering the chance to upgrade to Family Tree Maker 2012 for just £19.99 which - on the face of it - sounds like a bargain compared to the £29.99 that Amazon are charging.
However, what Amazon are selling is the full Platinum Edition. You not only get the program but also a 6 months Premium subscription to Ancestry.co.uk worth over £50 - whereas if you buy the upgrade you get a 1 month Essentials subscription worth not very much at all.
Similarly, I get really annoyed when I come across products in the supermarket where the larger packs work out more expensive than the smaller ones, even though the larger packs are emblazoned "larger pack, better value".
But there are ways to save on your groceries. For example, right now you can save £10 when you order online at Tesco and spend £50 - click here for more information and the coupon code. However, you can do even better if your order is delivered before 15th July and you spend £75 - click the same link above, but use the coupon code XX4HJT at the checkout. Now you'll get 1200 extra Clubcard points, making 1275 in all, and worth up to £38 in Clubcard Rewards - so in effect you're getting your groceries at half price.
This month's Which? magazine is, as usual, filled with great advice for canny consumers - such as balsamic vinegar from Tesco that tastes as good as Waitrose's up-market offering, even though the latter costs 8 times as much! Which? also covers the thorny problem of utility companies routinely taking too much with their monthly direct debits so that by the end of the year you're well in credit.
On the other hand, I don't particularly mind building up a credit balance with my electricity supplier - because they give me a rebate each month (called an 'Interest Reward') which is calculated at 3% per annum on my credit balance. Better than most savings accounts, especially since it's tax free!
According to Which? 60% of households have never changed their energy supplier, even though you get the same gas or electricity whichever supplier you use - they don't even change the meter. Ever few months I go to the Which? Switch website to check that the supplier I'm with is still the cheapest and get quite annoyed when I find out that I am!
The supplier I'm with, Ovo, has been the cheapest for ages (and that's without taking into account the Interest Reward they pay). If you do consider switching to them drop me a line first - it could be to your advantage!
Finally, a few words of advice to anyone who hasn't heard from a relative they've been connected with, whether through LostCousins or any other site - if someone hasn't replied then the most likely reason isn't that they're not interested (or that you've offended them in some way), it's almost certainly because they didn't receive your email in the first place!
Sometimes this will be because they've changed their email address - but most of the time it will because your email has ended up in their spam folder, or disappeared into a 'black hole'. Occasionally it will transpire that they did receive your email and did reply - but their email has gone into your spam folder!
I can't give you any specific advice regarding other sites, but at LostCousins there are two things that operate in your favour. One is the messaging system on your My Cousins page - because the emails came from LostCousins, so are more likely to get through. The other is me - because when you've tried everything I will step in and do my very best to re-establish contact with your cousin (even if their email address has changed).
Never, ever, give your email address to other members other than by exchanging addresses through your My Cousins page. Why? Because if the other member isn't prepared to give you their address they won't email you anyway, and if they are prepared to give you their address you might as well have exchanged addresses through your My Cousins page in the first place. The thing to remember is that when they have your email address but you don't have theirs you can't add them to your address book - which means that you might never see their reply.
There is a list of Ancestry Canada databases included in the offer here.
Please keep sending in your news and tips - many of the articles in this newsletter result from suggestions from readers like you!
© 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.