Newsletter - 17th July 2013
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 1 July
2013) 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.
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I'm glad to say that in my report last issue I was wrong about one thing - it seems there have been a couple of meetings between the Office of National Statistics and representatives of various genealogical organisations, although I've so far been unable to find out what was said at those meetings.
This isn't one of those cases where behind the scenes negotiations in smoke-filled rooms are the only way to deal with the issue - there needs to be more openness, not just from the ONS, but also from the organisations that have been meeting with them on behalf of you and me. (About 5 years ago there were similar meetings with the GRO - and look where that has got us!)
Note: the presentations from the conference I attended are now available online if you're interested in looking through them.
Findmypast and the National Archives have today announced a major project to digitise over 300,000 service records for members of the Royal Air Force and Royal Flying Corps - the earliest records date from 1912.
The contract relates to AIR 79. The records of officers are in AIR 76, and are already available online from the National Archives (it costs £3.36 to download each record).
I was busy researching my Hertfordshire ancestors earlier this month after findmypast announced that they had added 2 million records to their existing extensive collection of Hertfordshire parish records. As usual, each 'brick wall' I knocked down led to two more - but isn't that what it's all about?
For a list of the parishes and dates see the announcement.
There's great news for anyone with relatives who lived in Ireland after the commencement of civil registration in 1864, especially if you live far from the Emerald Isle. The General Register Office in Roscommon is now prepared to email 'research copies' of BMD certificates instead of sending photocopies through the post - and the cost is still only 4Ä, not much more than it costs to access a register entry online at Scotlandspeople, and a small fraction of what it would cost to order a certificate from the General Register Office for England & Wales.
You can read more about this improvement to the service on Claire Santry's blog, which is an excellent source of information about Irish family history.
DeceasedOnline have added nearly 230,000 burial and cremation records for the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council area, which includes not only Wakefield, but also towns such as Castleford, Pontefract, Featherstone and Knottingley. The earliest records date from 1857.
Most parish registers for the West Yorkshire are online at Ancestry; however from the mid-19th century onwards fewer and fewer people were buried in churchyards, particularly those in towns.
The 2013 New Zealand Family History Fair will be held in Auckland between 2nd and 4th of August, and I was delighted to see that as usual several of the speakers are LostCousins members. For more details visit the website.
So do I. But there's currently a bug at Ancestry that prevents me listing their new UK collections - selecting United Kingdom from the dropdown menu displays records from around the world. The only way I was able to limit the list in some sensible fashion was to choose Wales from the menu (England isn't an option).
Ancestry aren't the only ones who need to "pull their socks up". I long for the day when I can search parish baptisms at findmypast using the names of one or both parents - it would make it far easier to find my ancestors' siblings. And I'm prepared to bet I'm not the only one who would appreciate being able to specify the names of both spouses when searching for a marriage.
Not surprisingly my article in the last newsletter describing Simon's distressing experience attracted a wealth of correspondence, almost all of it from readers whose research had also been misused or misrepresented by others.
I'm afraid it's a very common problem - the stories I report in my newsletter are just the tip of the iceberg, and for every sad tale that I publish there are many others that don't make it into print simply because I can't devote the whole of the newsletter to one topic, albeit one that is both important and controversial.
Is it possible that by publishing our own well-researched trees online we'll persuade other less diligent researchers will realise that they've made a mistake and correct their errors? It's possible - but sadly experience shows that it's very unlikely. People who are more interested in quantity than quality aren't likely to experience a Damascene conversion, and most of them simply ignore something that didn't fit their own misguided view of the facts. Even if you try to contact them directly you're likely to be ignored, or greeted with abuse.†
One member - John - came up with a great idea: if sites that host family trees would allow other users to rate them, then at last we might begin to get the message home! However there's still the danger that the views of the 9 people who copied the incorrect data will overwhelm those of the 1 person who actually did the research and found the right answers.
A common misconception is that if you have a private Ancestry tree, others who share your †ancestors won't be able to find you - and it's a misconception that Ancestry themselves help to perpetuate by limiting the options in their Search menu, which lists Public Member Trees but omits any mention of private trees.
Of course, as many of you will know, if you use Search All Records it provides results from both private and public trees, and that applies whether you use the Old Search that most readers of this newsletter prefer, or the New Search.
Note: I wouldn't normally recommend using Search All Records - you'll usually get far better results by searching different types of data separately - but this is one instance where it is absolutely essential.
There's a real benefit to having a private tree at Ancestry - to get access to your data your cousins have to do what they'd be forced to do at sites like Genes Reunited and LostCousins - get in touch!
Although the average Genes Reunited member isn't nearly as experienced as the typical LostCousins member, there are an awful lot of them - so if you're trying to find a connection in a specific branch it's a site that's well worth considering.
I've arranged an exclusive offer for LostCousins members - until the end of July you'll save £5 on a 12 month Standard subscription to Genes Reunited.co.uk when you click here and use the offer code LCGENES, which brings the price down to just £14.95, the same as you'd pay for a 6 month subscription!
There are two main ways to use Genes Reunited - you can search for specific relatives, or you can upload your tree as a Gedcom file (almost all family tree programs can export your tree in this format). It's also possible to build a tree on Genes Reunited, but I wouldn't recommend relying on ANY online tree as your main repository of data.
A word of warning: when you try to contact another member with whom a match has been made the default wording asks if you can view their tree. However, since you wouldn't (I hope) let them see your tree until you're sure that there really is a connection, it would be rather discourteous to ask to see theirs, don't you think? I simply change the text of the email to ask how the other member is connected to the relative that we share - it only takes a few moments.
On the whole I don't recommend that you share your entire tree with anyone, because - apart from your brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren - nobody else shares more than half of your tree, and most of the connections you make will be with people who share no more than one-eighth of your ancestors. Whether you find your cousins at Ancestry, Genes Reunited, or even LostCousins - it's best to share information on a "need to know" basis.
According to studies from all over the world collected by the World Happiness Database in Rotterdam, people involved in activities are more likely to be happy. Professor Veenhoven of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam also reported that people get happier as they get older - because they get better at dealing with life (and since none of us are getting any younger, that's definitely good news!).
A finding that some of you might find surprising is that people with goals seem to be slightly less happy - though having observed thousands of family historians over the years I'd already noticed that the ones who follow the research wherever it leads seem to be more fulfilled than those who spend decades trying to solve a particular mystery.
In the last newsletter I wrote about an Essex parish where there were more baptisms in the last 6 days of June 1837 than in the first 6 months of 1836 - and speculated that there may have been some confusion relating to the introduction of civil registration on 1st July 1837.
Subsequently another LostCousins member, Pete, wrote to tell me that on 30th June 1837 the Vicar of Saffron Walden, also in Essex, baptised an amazing 157 children!
But it wasn't just an Essex thing - I understand from Yvonne that at St Leonard's in Shoreditch, a more populous parish, there were over 400 children baptised on 30th June!
Over the years I've had a number of queries from members whose Internet telephone software (probably Skype) was incorrectly identifying census references on their My Ancestors page as telephone numbers!
This month I had an email from a member who was worried because the Rapport software on her computer was telling her that LostCousins is a 'high risk' website. Although I've never used Rapport, it is offered by my bank - so I'm glad I've resisted the temptation to install it.
Why might Rapport identify LostCousins as high risk? Because the census references look - to a computer - a bit like credit card or bank account numbers, which should only be entered on secure web pages, ie where the URL begins with https://
Very few websites use secure pages except for the payments process. At LostCousins we don't use them at all - because when you pay online the page you see is hosted by WorldPay, as you can see here:
I chose WorldPay for LostCousins because it was the site that the GRO used to handle their card payments (it probably still is, but it's some time since I ordered a certificate from them - I'm sure you can guess why).
Anyway, to cut a long story short - if the software on your computer gets fooled by the census references on your My Ancestors page, just ignore it. Remember that you're smarter than it is!
The National Archives have cut the price of dozens of books, some as much as 70% - click here to see what's available.
However, before you make your purchase I'd recommend checking Amazon, not just because they might be selling the book even more cheaply (especially when the cost of delivery is taken into account), but also so that you can read the reviews written by previous purchasers. After all, some of the books are likely to be in the sale because they didn't sell very well.
Where are all the 90 year-olds?
Earlier this month the BBC reported that the 2011 Census had found significantly fewer 90 year-olds than expected. It seems that there were 15% fewer men in their 90s and 5% fewer women - and as the article explains, this can only be because they died earlier than predicted.
Last November I wrote of my concern about the Liverpool Care Pathway, and mentioned that an independent review had been commissioned by the Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb. This week the report was published, and it concluded that the pathway, which can involve the withdrawal of food and treatment, was being "misused". You can read a summary on the BBC website here.
I don't know whether my father was on the LCP when he died 3 weeks before the 2011 Census, but this month I finally received from the hospital the medical records that I requested in March. I was amazed to read on the very first page that the doctor who assessed him on his admission had written "Not for resuscitation", a decision that was neither conveyed to nor discussed with me or with other members of my family (nor, according to the file, with my father). And yet, when I went to visit my father on the day after his admission the doctor who was in charge of the ward told me how well he was doing!
Less than a week later I arrived in the ward to discover that my father seemed to have suffered a stroke. One side of his face had dropped right down, something I'd never seen in him before, yet the nursing staff claimed not to have noticed (although the Daily Patient Progress Report shows that the day before their assessment of his communication and speech had changed from "Speech normal, can communicate clearly" to "Has speech difficulties, limited verbal communication").
Even though Dad was in a hospital ward it took nearly an hour and a half to get a doctor to examine him - was that long delay influenced by the fatal decision made on his admission, I wonder? My father died in the early hours of the following morning - he was just a few weeks short of his 95th birthday.
Perhaps if Dad had been asked he would probably have agreed with the doctor's decision - but itís wrong that nobody was asked or even told about it. Perhaps by recounting this tale some of you will be better prepared than me when faced with similar circumstances?
Last night I watched the first episode of Family Tree, the new BBC2 comedy series - it was amusing, but I'll reserve judgement until I've seen more. What did you make of it?
I couldn't help smiling when I read on the BBC website that the 1970 film The Railway Children had prompted its first complaint after 42 years - on the grounds that it might encourage children to play on railway tracks.
Times have certainly changed - in today's over-protective society it seems that it's no longer acceptable for children to walk to school as we all did in my day. At the age of 10 I walked (or, more likely, ran) half a mile to the railway station, travelled 5 stops on the train, then walked nearly a mile and a half at the other end (much of it up a steep hill). Nowadays it's probably the parked cars clustered around the school gates that present the greatest danger to schoolchildren!
The English summer has arrived at last - 2 years late! Last year my wife's vegetable patch was devastated by slugs - this year it's a different story, because she discovered nematodes (and no, I hadn't heard of them either). Do you have a gardening tip to pass on to other members?
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
I'll be sending out more invitations to join the LostCousins forum shortly - if you're fortunate enough to receive one I look forward to seeing you there!
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
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