Newsletter - 24th September 2013
Ancestry.co.uk - shock price increases BREAKING NEWS
Last chance to save at findmypast ENDS MONDAY
Interview: Gordon Honeycombe EXCLUSIVE
The LostCousins newsletter is
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Ancestry.co.uk - shock price increases BREAKING NEWS
Just as I was finalising this newsletter this morning I discovered that Ancestry have considerably increased the cost of subscriptions to their UK site. Whilst this is something that I've long feared - subscriptions to Ancestry's overseas sites were far higher - it still came as a most unwelcome shock.
The most popular subscription, the Premium subscription, has gone up by NEARLY 40% from £107.40 to £149 a year; the Worldwide subscription has increased by 28%, from £155.40 to £199.
It's several years since Ancestry changed their prices, during which time they've added many new datasets - so it's possible to argue that this increase has always been on the cards. However, so long as findmypast hold their prices I suspect that they're going to pick up a lot of extra subscribers (especially since there's a 10% discount until the end of the month - see below for full details).
Note: shortly after writing this article I visited the Ancestry.co.uk site again and this time the old prices were displayed. Have they rescinded the increases due to unfavourable reactions, or merely delayed them? Only time will tell.
The long-awaited consultation that will finally decide the future of the England & Wales census has just been published by the Office of National Statistics. I suggest you read through the consultation document, but that you don't respond until I've had a chance to set out my thoughts in this newsletter.
There's also a draft document relating to the specific needs of genealogists and social researchers which you might find useful, but again I haven't had a chance to study it myself yet.
Findmypast have added another 300,000 entries to their collection of Royal Household staff records, taking the total to over 380,000 covering the period from 1526-1924. You'll find more details and a link to the Search page here.
In October 1910 Winston Churchill signed an order establishing a Royal Commission headed by a judge to "inquire into and report on the state of the public records and local records of a public nature".
In my last newsletter I mentioned some of their comments relating to the General Register Office - and having now obtained a copy of their Final Report from 1919 I'm able to reveal that they also recommended:
"The readjustment of the regulations of the General Register Office.... to enable searchers to consult the original registers on payment of the usual inspections fees"†
In my letter to the Home Secretary earlier this year I asserted that the Registrar General could make this change simply by varying the regulations managing the GRO under section 5 of the 1836 Act. Clearly the Royal Commission were of the same opinion.
Aware that many of the searchers did not need evidence for legal purposes, because they were researching family trees, the Commission made a further recommendation (note that in this context "remitted" means "waived"):
"Official fees for the inspection or reproduction of literary documents in the Principal Probate Registry and General Registry Office to be remitted or reduced as far as possible"
94 years ago they could have had no idea that computers and the Internet would transform the opportunities for ordinary people to research their family trees, yet they came up with substantially the same proposals that I have outlined in my newsletters. It clearly isn't rocket science!
In the meantime I've learned that Sarah Rapson, the Registrar General for England & Wales, took over in April as the head of the new UK Visas and Immigration Service, which has assumed responsibility for immigration previously borne by the UK Border Agency, which in 2006 was famously described by the then Home Secretary, John Reid, as "not fit for purpose".
However Ms Rapson retains her appointment as Registrar General, described in the 2012-13 Annual Report of the Identity & Passport Service as a "formal position". Is she, or isn't she, in charge of the General Register Office - and if not, who is? Perhaps it's time for another Freedom of Information request - in which I'll also be asking about the figures in the Annual Report which apparently show that the cost of issuing copy certificates has halved (unlike the prices, of course). I suspect it's simply a change of presentation, but if so you'd think that they might tell us, rather than keep us guessing.....
I frequently get emails from members complaining that although the GRO have agreed to update their records the online GRO indexes haven't changed.
Unfortunately this is the GRO's standard practice - they'll update their own records at their Southport offices, but they don't notify people who have previously purchased (or otherwise acquired) copies of the indexes - whether they're libraries with microfiche, or websites like Ancestry, findmypast and FreeBMD which have digitised the indexes.
Over the years there must have been tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of amendments that have been made. In some cases you'll see the evidence of the earliest changes online - typically a handwritten note at the bottom of a page.
Because the GRO's policy (with regard to selling copies of the indexes) changed a few years ago there's little prospect of them putting matters right in the foreseeable future.
Note: in the GRO article in my last newsletter I asked whether you could figure out why there so many people called Childers who apparently died in a single quarter of 1943. The answer, as many of you figured out, is that there was an indexing error - most of the deaths were actually of people named Childs (a much more common surname). Incidentally, I was wrong to imply that the name Childers name always derives from Schilders - in fact it has been around since mediaeval times, and James's relatives were an exception.
I recently came across a letter from Mrs Pankhurst to the Editor of The Times in which she explained why suffragettes would be boycotting the 1911 Census (it was published on Monday 29th March 1911). However, although I was aware of the boycott I hadn't seen any hard evidence - until Claire wrote to tell me about Mrs Martin of Fulham.
The enumerator had written out the return himself, naming the occupants as "Mrs Martin", "Mr Martin", and "Servant" and adding the explanation "Details refused Mrs Martin absolutely declining to see Enumerator, although called several times & forbade her maid or son to disclose any particulars."
Note: if you want to look up the entry yourself the references are Piece 307, Schedule 74.
Last chance to save at findmypast ENDS MONDAY
Until Monday 30th September you can save 10% on any new subscription to findmypast.co.uk when you click here and use the code LCW10
But that's not all - you can also get a free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) AND a much-coveted invitation to join the new LostCousins forum before it opens officially (priceless - only 1% of members have been invited, so it really IS a privilege).
To make sure you qualify for the bonuses follow these simple steps (and read the small print at the bottom, in case it applies to you):
(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 are already logged-in when you arrive at the website (perhaps because you've been checking out the latest data releases before subscribing) log-out, then start again by clicking the link at the beginning of this paragraph.
If you aren't taken to the Subscribe page automatically, click Subscribe in the top right hand corner.
Note: if the Promotional Code box isn't shown it's because you haven't logged in yet (there are two screens that look very similar).
(2) Enter the exclusive offer code LCW10 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 virtually half price).
If you're only interested in British records (England, Scotland, and Wales) the Full subscription is by far the best choice - the Foundation subscription only offers basic records and is for absolute beginners (don't even consider it!). 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 British Newspaper collection - would cost £79.95 if purchased separately.
(4) Before entering your credit card details make sure that the price shown is the discounted price!
If at any stage during the process you are logged out (this often happens to me while I'm looking for my credit card), if your credit card isn't accepted for any reason, or if you have to switch to a different browser or a different computer, please 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 (all you need to do is enter the other person's membership number on your My Details page). If you already have a LostCousins subscription I'll extend it.
Small print: these offers cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts or backdated; if you are a current findmypast subscriber you will receive a 10% Loyalty Discount when your subscription is renewed automatically, so you won't qualify for either offer. However if you upgrade your findmypast subscription before the renewal date you should qualify for a free LostCousins subscription (provided you follow the instructions above). Free LostCousins subscriptions are funded by the commission we receive from findmypast, and that's why it's important you follow the instructions to the letter - if you have any questions ask me before you complete your purchase, because it will be too late afterwards!
The Birmingham area is one of the most difficult to research, so I was delighted when - as foreshadowed in my November newsletter - Ancestry last week added parish registers for Birmingham and many of its suburbs.
The following links will take you direct to the relevant search pages (click Browse this collection at the right of the page to see a list of parishes included):
Because the censuses prior to 1901 were destroyed long ago other Irish records that have survived can be incredibly useful, even if they might seem somewhat esoteric - or, in this case, barking mad.
Findmypast.ie have launched a new dataset with well over half a million dog licence records from the period 1866-1913 (you can access them at findmypast.co.uk if you have a World subscription). The records include the owner's name and address but ironically the one piece of information missing from the dog licence records is the name of the dog (though it does give the breed, gender, and colour).
I'm told that millions more records will be added to this dataset over the coming months - but it's only a ruff estimate!
Interview: Gordon Honeycombe EXCLUSIVE
Gordon Honeycombe was twice voted the most popular newscaster in Britain during the 12 years he spent with ITN, from 1965 to 1977 - but for many LostCousins members he will remembered as the man who brought genealogy into our living rooms with the 5-part series Family History, which ran on BBC2 in 1979 and was repeated on BBC1.
This was a quarter century before Who Do You Think You Are? reached our screens, so I was delighted to have the opportunity recently to speak on the telephone to Gordon, who now lives in Auatralia, about his career and his family history.
Peter: Gordon, you're known to most of us primarily as a newscaster, but you're also an actor - at one time you were a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company - and a published author. So how on earth did you also find time to research your family tree?
Gordon: I began when I was at Oxford in 1960; that's when I first went down to Cornwall and found that there were Honeycombes in the parish registers, in particular at Calstock - which is where Honeycombe House is (it was a semi-ruin at the time). At that time the registers were kept in a safe at the church - and on the very first page of the first register the rector opened was a Honeycombe marriage from the 16th century!
Peter: Is Honeycombe House still there?
Gordon: It's now a holiday centre called Honicombe Manor (although it never was a manor house) and when I organised a gathering of the Honeycombes in 1984 - a heritage weekend - 159 of us, from all over the world, were able to stay in the various holiday homes at Honicombe itself.
Peter: That's an incredible number considering how rare the surname is - there were less than 60 Honeycomb(e)s on the 1881 Census. I assume many of them had emigrated before then?
Gordon: Yes, to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the USA.
Peter: Most of us start out on our research hoping to find connections to the rich and famous, but very soon what most impresses us is the fact that our poor ancestors survived at all.
Gordon: All the Honeycombes in the world descend from Matthew Honeycombe, a yeoman farmer who lived in St Cleer in Cornwall - there were many other Honeycombes in other villages, but all those lines died out.
Peter: The Family History series you presented in 1979 must have encouraged many people to start researching their family trees?
Gordon: I believe so. The series was repeated several times and there was also a BBC book called Discovering Your Family History by Don Steel.
Peter: On your website you mention that you bought a laptop in 2003 - so presumably you did all your research up to that point the hard way?
Gordon: Yes, I have spent many, many hours in churches and county record offices looking at documents; also in the Society of Genealogist's library, and in the offices of the Duchy of Cornwall where I was able to peruse the original accession rolls and court rolls for the manor of Calstock - going back in my case to 1327, which is when we first find the Honeycombe name, actually living at Honeycombe. I started making a note of all the Honeycombe entries, and adding them to what I'd found in parish records I managed to join them all into families and trees - and I realised to my amazement that all the Honeycombes in the world today are descended from Matthew Honeycombe of St Cleer.
Peter: You were fortunate to find that your common ancestor lived after the commencement of parish registers.
Gordon: Unfortunately I donít have a record of Matthew's baptism - the early registers have been lost. But I think he was born about 1658 and I know which Honeycombes were in the village at the time, and only a certain John Honeycombe, who fought for the Royalists in the Civil War, could have been his father.
Peter: Have you ever thought of verifying that all the Honeycombes worldwide are related using DNA tests? It's not an option that would have been available until fairly recently.
Gordon: I would love that to be done, I've thought about it often. And I'd very much like the TV series, Who Do You Think You Are?, to help me find my Scottish ancestors. My mother was a Fraser.
Peter: You're 77 this month, but you're still working - are you ever going to retire, and what will you do?
Gordon: I've no thoughts of retiring as such. I've finished my Memoirs but I'm having trouble finding a publisher - since finishing at TV-am in 1989 and emigrating to Australia I'm no longer in the public eye.
Peter: Thank you very much indeed for being so patient.
Gordon: It's been a pleasure. And I hope that you and your members will be able to help me with some of the gaps and loose ends in the Honeycombe trees!
I've just sent out more details to the members who had already expressed an interest in learning more about family history whilst enjoying the sunshine and relative warmth of Portugal.
Genealogy in the Sunshine runs for one week from Saturday 15th March 2014, but anyone who wants to arrive early or leave late can do so for a modest additional cost. We'll be staying at Rocha Brava, a collection of villas and apartments fashioned in a traditional Algarve-style in a beautiful cliff-top setting.
It's not a time of the year for swimming, but most days it will be warm enough for sunbathing, with highs and lows similar to those you'd expect in England in June and an average of 7-8 hours sunshine each day (about twice what you're likely to get in England in March).
The course will involve 5 half-day sessions so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and the scenery - and because all of the villas and apartments have full kitchens you can eat as cheaply as you would at home. However, if your idea of a holiday doesn't allow for cooking there are plenty of restaurants and cafes within easy reach, including the excellent O Farol restaurant in the resort (where we'll be enjoying an end of course dinner to which everyone will be invited - even the spouses who don't appreciate the joys of family history).
If the idea of combining genealogy with winter sunshine appeals to you, let me know right away - there are a limited number of places available.
I didn't give a closing date when I set this competition in the last newsletter, so you've now got until Saturday 5th October to send in your entry and - if your answer is judged the best - win a Francis Frith 2014 calendar featuring 12 photos that you choose from the 365,000 in their collection. Keep it for yourself or give it to someone you really care about.
Understanding the calendar is important if you're a family historian. Of course, everyone knows that if the year is divisible by 4 then there are 29 days in February - for example, there were 29 days in February 2012, but only 28 in February this year. But it isn't quite as simple as that, is it?
Even today, different calendars are used in different parts of the world. If you were living in England, how many days would there have been in each of these months, and why?
(a) February 1900
(b) February 1800
(c) February 1700
(d) February 1699
(e) September 1752
Trust me - it's not as easy as it looks!
Thanks to everyone who wrote in with examples of unusual or amusing combinations for surnames following my article in the last newsletter.
Liz wrote to tell me about her 1st cousin 4 times removed, Mary Ann Winter who married Thomas Freezer - whilst their granddaughter, Agnes Freezer married Frederic Warmer. Paul told me about someone he once knew called Norman, who married a girl with the surname Conquest.
But perhaps the best collection of names came from Colin, whose surname is Fysh - which is appropriate since his grandmother was a Skate and his great-great-great-great grandmother was a Pike!
Following the last newsletter I also had a lot of emails from members who had come across ridiculous things in other peoples' family trees - such as people marrying before they were born. Several members suggested I look at some of the trees which include Henry VIII, and I was shocked by what I found. Everyone knows that Henry VIII had six wives - except, it would appear, some of the people who have posted trees on Ancestry!
As I looked at some of the highly questionable trees I came up with a theory why some of the more ridiculous errors may be occurring - I suspect that they are a result of Gedcom files being merged. Now, if someone gives me access to part of their tree I don't merge it with mine - I copy across the relevant people and check the data as I do this (it's unusual not to find a slip or two, and there are invariably some gaps that I'm able to fill, so I think it's time well spent).
But if you're one of these 'name collectors' with tens of thousands of names (I hesitate to say 'relatives') in your tree, the chances are it has grown to that size by merging other peoples' trees with your own.
Another source of errors seems to be the use of drop-down menus for place names (at least, that's the most charitable explanation I can come up with). History O-Level was the one examination I failed at school, but even I could have told you that Queen Mary didn't die in Westminster, Jefferson, Colorado (as 32 Ancestry users assert in their public trees), or in Westminster, Worcester, Massachusetts (as a further 99 claim).
Mind you, go back a generation to another Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's sister and the situation is even worse - in their public trees 264 Ancestry users show her as dying in Suffolk, Massachusetts (she actually died in Suffolk, England).
Since we've got quite a time to wait before Steve Robinson's next genealogy mystery comes out I was absolutely delighted when Michael told me about The Marriage Certificate, by Stephen Molyneux. So far three-quarters of the reviewers at Amazon have awarded 5 stars (the others gave 4 stars) - so I had no hesitation buying it for my Kindle (it's also available as a paperback). If you're outside the UK follow this link to Amazon.com
What I didn't plan to do was start reading it right away, but out of curiosity I took a look at the first page and - you've guessed it - I was immediately hooked. Since then I've had trouble putting it down, though I was determined to save it for my trip to Portugal (to make the final arrangements for Genealogy in the Sunshine).
Finally, I've got two tickets (worth £12 each) for the Tesco Wine Fair which takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on Sunday 6th October. If you and a friend would like to sample a wide range of wines and champagnes, all completely free of charge, email me immediately - the first person to write in gets the tickets!
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
Until next time!
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
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