Newsletter - 7th May 2014
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 29th
April) click here, for an index to articles
from 2009-10 click here, for
a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a
list of articles from 2012-13 click here.
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them).For your convenience, when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open (so that you don’t lose your place in the newsletter) - if nothing seems to happen then you need to enable pop-ups in your browser or change the settings in your security software.
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!
Thanks to everyone who sent their birthday wishes - much appreciated!
But what really impressed me was the number of members who started adding data to their My Ancestors page for the very first time and almost immediately connected with their cousins - I hope their successes will inspire others (you know who you are!) to do the same.
Last Thursday I had an email from Elaine who had seen an item about DNA on the BBC that morning:
"Just wondering if you saw the item on Breakfast TV this morning re Carol Kirkwood’s DNA having turned up that her ancestors were from Crieff - not far from where she grew up. Surely she had other ancestors who came from other places or was the test a selective one? I know you have mentioned DNA tests and am wondering what your reaction to this item was. In my own case I have Lancashire, Cheshire, Irish and Scottish ancestors so how could one place be pinpointed? Having wondered from time to time about having a test done this has made me a bit sceptical."
Although I didn't see the Breakfast programme, and it isn't available through iPlayer, I was able to find this short article on the BBC website - it includes a film clip, which I assume was transmitted as part of the programme. It's only just over 2 minutes long, so it won't take long to watch, yet it makes an astounding claim - that it's possible to be able to trace where our ancestors came from 1000 years ago, right down to the town or village!
Note: it is also possible to view the film here, via a press release on the University of Sheffield's website).
Elaine isn't a DNA expert, but I thought she made a very good point when she highlighted the differing origins of the ancestors she knows about. Most of us have similarly diverse origins - just on my mother's side I know of ancestors from Devon, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Essex, Kent, Germany, and (I suspect) Belgium. It's hardly surprising when you consider that if you go back even 10 generations you've got 1024 lines to follow (ignoring cousin marriages, although so far I haven't found any in my direct line).
So how can any DNA analysis pinpoint a single point of origin for my ancestors - very simply, it can't! And you don't need to be an expert to figure that out.
There's another reason why you have to question the ability of a test to pinpoint where your ancestors were 1000 years ago - we don't inherit DNA from all of our ancestors, a fact I only discovered a few weeks ago when Debbie Kennett spoke at Genealogy in the Sunshine. Debbie subsequently directed me to some of the blog postings on this topic, including How much of your genome do you inherit from a particular ancestor? by Graham Coop at the University of California at Davis. But first let's remind ourselves how DNA is inherited:
We have 46 chromosomes, which comprise 22 pairs of autosomes and 2 sex chromosomes. (I have one X and one Y chromosome, but around half the people reading this article have two X chromosomes - it's what makes them female.)
One chromosome in each pair is inherited from our father, and one from our mother - which seems simple enough, until you remember that they also received 22 pairs from their parents. So where did our chromosomes come from originally?
Here's how it works: the DNA that parents donate to their children is actually a mixture of the DNA that they themselves inherited. It isn't as simple as passing on some paternal chromosomes and some maternal chromosomes - in practice each chromosome is broken into chunks, so we get a bit of mum's DNA, then a bit of dad's and so on. So the 22 autosomes that I inherited from my father are each a mixture of the DNA he got from his father and the DNA he got from his mother.
That sounds simple enough, until you remember that this recombination process happens at every generation, and with each generation the amount of DNA that we've inherited from our ancestors halves. On average 50% of our DNA comes from each parent, 25% from each grandparent, and so on but there comes a point at which there will be some ancestors from whom we haven't inherited any DNA at all.
Graham Coop's calculations suggest that by the time you go back 10 generations - about 300 years - there's around a 50% chance that you haven't inherited any large blocks of autosomal DNA from a specific ancestor. Or, looking at it another way, roughly half of your 8G grandparents haven't contributed to your DNA.
Go back another 4 generations and the vast majority of your ancestors from that generation won't have made any contribution to your DNA!
Clearly if we don't inherit DNA from all of our ancestors no software, no analysis of our DNA can be sure of pinning down where they all were 1000 years ago - but even if it could, how could it possibly be expressed in a single set of GPS co-ordinates?
DNA testing is a key tool in genealogical research - but in my estimation the GPS test is "for amusement only". However if you still think it's worth a try, please read Debbie Kennett's blog post first!
I came across this article on the BBC website which tells a cautionary tale. It's good to know that better procedures are used nowadays!
Who did Lewis Lister Peckett marry?
I was looking at Yvonne's My Ancestors page recently, and noticed that she hadn't entered the maiden name of Mary Ann, who married Lewis Lister Peckett in 1872.
As I had a few moments to spare I decided to look up the answer - but ran into a slight problem, because the only possible spouse listed was called Eliza. Undaunted I put on my thinking cap, and a few minutes later I had the answer - and what I'd like to know is whether you can find it too (using only the GRO marriage indexes)?
Tip: I used the FreeBMD site to solve this mystery.
The message is getting through - judging from this post by the findmypast CEO.
Over 370,000 prison records , police records, and reform school records for West Yorkshire are now available at Ancestry.co.uk - the links below will take you straight to the relevant search pages:
Note: there is an article on the Daily Mail site with examples taken from the reform school records.
The Ireland 1901 and 1911 censuses have survived virtually intact, and are available free at the National Archives of Ireland website - but substantially all of the earlier censuses were destroyed.
Nevertheless 600,000 names from pre-1901 census records have now been available online thanks to a joint project involving the NAI, FamilySearch, and findmypast. The records are from the 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 censuses and you can search them free at findmypast.co.uk if you follow this link; you'll find more details about this important collection here.
There are a lot of fascinating facts and figures to be found in the Annual Reports of the Registrar General for Ireland - you can find them here. I had a quick look at the report for 1868 - it includes an index to registration districts which you might find useful if you're trying to track down entries in the birth, marriage and death indexes.
I live in a village that is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but that's nothing - according to this Daily Mail article, Amesbury in Wiltshire is now thought to be Britain's oldest town, dating from 8820BC. The archaeological site is about one and a half miles from Stonehenge, which was erected around 3000BC.
A team of researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have sequenced the DNA of 11 individuals who lived between 5000 and 7000 years ago. The results show significant genetic differences between hunter-gatherers and farmers, which seems to suggest that hunter-gatherers were displaced by farmers rather than absorbed into their society as has been proposed previously.
Ancestry have uploaded over 85,000 Gloucestershire wills and inventories dating from as far back as 1541. You can search them here.
Twin sisters who were born in Aldershot in 1936, but separated soon after birth, have finally met up again. You'll find this heartwarming story on the BBC website.
Lives of First World War to introduce subscriptions
Lives of the First World War, a joint venture between findmypast and the Imperial War Museum is planning to introduce subscriptions for access to 'premium records' - you can see a list of them here. At a quick glance it looks as if all the records listed are also available through findmypast, so I suspect most family historians will prefer a more general subscription.
Nevertheless, this new option might be a first step for some of the family historians of the future!
Genealogist, author, and lecturer Celia Heritage has kindly updated her guide for visitors to the National Archives, which you'll find on the Help & Advice page at the LostCousins site. Even if you've been there before it's worth checking the guide because there have been changes in recent years - and I'm not just talking about car parking.
By the way, TNA have just appointed a new Chief Executive, Jeff James, who has had a previous stint at TNA as Director of Operations - you can see the press release here.
When Celia wrote to me with the updated guide I took the opportunity to negotiate a discount for readers on her 6-module e-course - which normally costs £129, but will cost you only £118 (less than £20 per module) if you sign up before the end of July.
You'll find full details of the courses offered by Heritage Family History here; for full details of the e-course in PDF format please follow this link. To claim your discount simply email Celia quoting your LostCousins membership number, which you'll find on your My Summary page.
Angie wrote to me at the weekend about causes of death as shown on death certificates, which according to her GP are recorded "for statistical purposes only", and this got me hunting for information about post mortems - since it’s often only after a post mortem that the cause of death is known beyond reasonable doubt. This article about post mortems on the NHS Choices website was quite illuminating.
By the way, Celia Heritage's book Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records, originally published in paperback, is also available in Kindle format - and at the bargain price of £3.70 (most of the Amazon reviews give it 5 stars out 5 which is a pretty good recommendation). If you're in the US or Canada click here for the appropriate page at Amazon.com; if you're in Australia click here for Amazon.com.au
Obituaries can be wonderful sources of information, especially if the only other document available is a death certificate (and in England & Wales these were exceptionally frugal in the information they provided), but can you trust what it says in the newspaper? After all, the person who would have known ALL the answers isn't around anymore, and the surviving relatives may be relying on hearsay.
Fortunately we have sources at our fingertips that 19th and most 20th century journalists wouldn't have had available to them: censuses and GRO indexes for a start. We may not be able to check everything, but it's reasonable to assume that the level of accuracy in the items we can check is comparable with the level of accuracy in those that for one reason or another can't be checked.
Tip: you can evaluate the likely accuracy of information by assessing the accuracy of the source.
You can't even trust official records to be accurate: anybody can make mistakes. A story that has featured in the tabloids recently tells of a mother of five who has had all sorts of problems - because according to her birth certificate she is male!
Kim Walmsley (née Monaghan) has apparently come up against the General Register Office bureaucracy in trying to correct this error, which dates back 49 years. She has been told that her marriage is invalid - because she married a man - and her family have been forced to return from Australia where they had hoped to stay permanently, because without the right documentation she can't get a visa. This long episode has reportedly cost the family £150,000 one way or another!
It's such an incredible story that I can't help thinking that there's more to it than meets the eye - especially since the GRO publishes advice on making changes to birth registrations which mentions changes of gender. Of course, in situations like these the GRO can't comment without falling foul of the Data Protection Act, so we may never know the whole truth.
Here's another story: it is said that on census night in 1911, the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison hid herself in a broom cupboard in the House of Commons so that she could be recorded there on the census. The event is commemorated by a plaque on the cupboard door which was placed there by Tony Benn, a prominent Socialist politician who I had the pleasure of meeting a year or so ago - sadly he died in March this year.
Other suffragettes chose to protest by not being recorded on the census at all - see my articles from last autumn - but it is suggested that Miss Davison believed that by recording her presence there she was making her claim to the same political rights as men.
However, if you search the 1911 Census you'll find that Emily Davison is not recorded in the Houses of Parliament, but in St Pancras - some miles away.
So is the story true about the broom cupboard true, or is it a myth that was created after she became a martyr for the cause when, in 1913, she was killed attempting to disrupt the Epsom Derby? (You may recall that the original death register entry was on display at Who Do You Think You Are? Live this year - thanks to the enlightened ladies of the Surrey Registration Service, who cast off the corsets of the General Register Office.)
Like all good researchers I kept searching. I found this article from the Nottingham Evening Post of 4th April 1911 - the image shown is the copyright of the British Library Board, and has been reproduced with the kind permission of the British Newspaper Archive.
As reported the story is a little different from the one that has been passed down, but it confirms that Miss Davison was indeed in the House of Parliament on census night.
So how did she come to be recorded at an address some miles away? A second look at the census form was most revealing - I wonder if you'll notice what I did?
And do you know why the newspaper refers to Emily Davison as the "hosepipe heroine"? I also uncovered that story during my researches.
Staying with politics, but crossing the house, in December I mentioned a book I'd just finished reading called Disraeli's Daughter, in which the author claimed that her grandmother was the illegitimate child of Benjamin Disraeli, the Tory politician who was Queen Victoria's favourite prime minister. In support of her case she mentioned that Disraeli also had an illegitimate son, Ralph, so when Douglas Hurd - who had been both Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary under Margaret Thatcher - spoke about his biography of Disraeli recently I questioned him about the allegations. Hurd is convinced that neither story is true - indeed, he'd never even heard the story about a daughter - and yet he ends the biography with a quote from Thomas Carlyle: "Dizzy is a charlatan and knows it". So who knows what we should believe?
Finally I'm going to end with yet another story that involves a politician - one who is in the news quite a lot these days. Last May findmypast published some research which apparently showed that Nigel Farage, the head of an anti-immigration political party was himself the descendant of German immigrants! Hard to believe, perhaps, but it seems to be confirmed by this 1871 Census entry which shows his great-grandfather Carl Schrod - who is stated as having been born in London of German parents:
As it happened, findmypast weren't the first to research Mr Farage's family tree - I'd done some research myself prior to hearing him speak in February last year, as I often do before meeting prominent people (it gives me an excuse to bring LostCousins into the conversation). And my research had come to exactly the same conclusion - that Nigel Farage is descended from German immigrants.
Just like me! Mind you, mine were here first........
Talking of German ancestors, I'm currently reading The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M Beidler, and although it was published in the US - and aimed at the US market - it nevertheless includes some very useful information that might just get me started on what had previously seemed like an impossible task. I bought the paperback, but it's also available for Kindle (if you're in North America follow this link).
You may recall that in the last newsletter I talked about smallpox vaccination registers, and this inspired me to buy a book on the subject, The Politics of Vaccination by Deborah Brunton, which looks at how public vaccination worked - or didn't work - in practice. So far I've only dipped into it, but it's clear already that there was a substantial gulf between what should have happened and what actually happened.
Note: Bev wrote from Australia to mention that she'd found some vaccination registers amongst the London Poor Law records at Ancestry.
I also need some lighter reading, so when I finished this month's issue of The Oldie I started reading Made at Home: Curing & Smoking by Dick & James Strawbridge, as this is something I've always fancied trying (I'll let you know how I get on!). I did also start reading Canary Child by David Field and LostCousins member Alan Dance, as I greatly enjoyed Alan's The Westbrook Affair, but the ghostly apparition in the first chapter rather put me off - I prefer my genealogical mysteries to be believable.
Last time I wrote about Edward Diamond Jubilee Day, who Julie had spotted in the London Electoral Registers (which have just been updated at Ancestry) - and shortly afterwards I got this email from Joyce:
"I was most surprised to see the name Edward Diamond Jubilee Day. He was my Father in law. His birthday was 26th May 1897. He was by trade, a paper hanger and a superb one at that. He would walk into a room and without a rule or measure of any kind, would tell you how many rolls of paper were needed, and he was absolutely right. Mind you his ancestors going back three generations were paper hangers/house decorators, so he was sure to be good at his job. It was either his Granddad or Gt Granddad who painted the ceilings in Buckingham Palace."
Although Edward was quite unique on account of his surname, there were quite a few people born in 1897 who were given the forename Diamond - I counted 60 people with the first name Diamond (9 of whom had Jubilee as their second forename), plus 220 whose second forename was Diamond (67 of whom had the initial J for their third forename) - one of them was Carolyn's relative Lucy Diamond Jubilee Hall.
A long, long time ago, when I was very briefly quite rich, I even more briefly considered buying a Lordship - not a peerage (they're not supposed to be sold) - but a manorial title. So it was fascinating to discover many years later that at one time my great-great grandfather's elder brother was the Secretary to the Manor of Stepney. It wasn't a particularly important role, but compared to my great-great grandfather - who was a painter and decorator - he was relatively posh.
Many, perhaps most, titles offered for sale are of doubtful provenance - according the website Fake Titles - so if you're tempted it's definitely a case of caveat emptor.
According to this BBC news story the Earl of Lonsdale has just put onto the market a Cumbrian mountain, and if you're able to come up with the £1.75m necessary to buy the mountain he'll throw in the Lordship of the Manor of Threlkeld.
If you have greater ambitions the occasional Scottish Barony comes onto the market - but this game isn't only played in Britain - in Germany, where aristocratic titles are little more than surnames, some of the aristos offer their titles by adoption, marriage, or even civil partnership. Whilst King Kigeli V of Rwanda, who ruled for 18 months between 1959-61, and now lives in social housing in Oakton, Virginia (according to Wikipedia) is said to be prepared to hand out titles in exchange for donations of between $1000 and $8000.
The bargain basement option is offered by Dunans Castle where you can become a Laird or Lady for just £39 (it's even cheaper with a Groupon voucher, apparently).
First of all - did you see the story about the Npower customer who charged them £50 for late payment when they were slow refunding his credit balance? Didn't he do well!
I've always enjoyed fruit loaves (or currant bread, as we used to call it when I was younger), but until recently I was perfectly content with whichever brand was reduced for quick sale. Then I discovered Warburton's Fruit Loaf with Orange, which is absolutely delicious: now it will be hard to accept anything else. I might even be persuaded to go against the habit of a lifetime and pay full price.....
If you've got a sweet tooth it's also worth mentioning the latest introductory offer from the Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club where you can save £13 on your first box of chocolates and get a free gift (allegedly) worth £6. Warning: these chocolates are so good that once you've tasted them, everything else will seem like a poor imitation (and I'm speaking from personal experience - they're my one luxury).
Being generally economical (or, as some might say, "a cheapskate") I tend not to pay outrageous prices for anything; this means that when I bought my wife an iPad for Christmas, it was the bottom of the range 16gb model (it was £80 more for an extra 16gb, which seemed awfully expensive at the time).
However, whilst 16gb sounds like a lot of memory (especially for those of us who remember floppy disks with a capacity of only 100k) you can soon fill it up with photos, music, and videos - and sadly with an iPad you can't just plug in extra memory. Fortunately I stumbled across this great little gadget that not only solves this problem, it's the solution to many others - and with 64gb of its own memory, plus an expansion slot that will take SDHC and SDXC cards with up to 128gb capacity I can't imagine ever having memory problems again. Note: if you're in North America please use this link instead.
Even better, the 20gb of music, photos, and video I've already stored on this tiny device (it's not much bigger than a matchbox) can be accessed from just about any device with WiFi, whether it's my phone, my wife's iPad, or even my laptop - and it can apparently stream different things to different devices at the same time, though that's going to wait for another day as I have a newsletter to finish!
Mary found a 1911 Census entry I'd missed - Emily Davison was recorded in the crypt of Westminster Hall, but as Davidson and with the wrong age. Well spotted!
As we enter our second decade I'm hopeful that it will be even more successful than the first. It's great that 10,000 members made connections with new relatives, but it would be so much better if everyone got involved in this unique project - and that's up to you, you and - yes - you at the back too!
© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver
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