Newsletter - 10 November 2013
Free military records at Ancestry ENDS TUESDAY
It's not just cricket.... COMPETITION
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 24
October 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.
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 donít 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!
If you were thinking of making a trip to High Holborn to obtain a copy of a post-1858 will, don't - according to an announcement on the Society of Genealogists website the search facility has moved to Court 38 at the Royal Courts of Justice, in the Strand.
I understand that this move is a prelude to the launch early next year of an online service, which will presumably work in the same hybrid way as that for soldiers' wills (see my August newsletter).
Congratulations to everyone who entered the competition - your combined efforts brought together cousins from all over the world, which - after all - is what LostCousins all about!
However there could be only one winner of the prize generously donated by Ancestry.co.uk (of an Annual Premium Membership), and that goes to John Farrell of Merseyside. When I informed John that he was the lucky winner he was absolutely delighted - and asked me to mention the ManxDNA site, which is researching the Y-DNA profiles of males of Manx origin. John is particularly keen that anyone with the surname Fargher or Faragher takes part.
I also noticed a surname on the list that was familiar to me: Mylrea. When I was studying with the Open University one of my fellow students was Paul Mylrea, who originates from the Isle of Man (and was until recently Director of Public Affairs at the BBC).
Free military records at Ancestry ENDS TUESDAY
In honour of Remembrance Day, until 12th November 3.6 million UK military records will be free at Ancestry.co.uk, including surviving World War 1 service records, and millions of Canadian records are free to search at Ancestry.ca
Findmypast.com.au is offering free access to three-quarters of a million Australian birth, marriage, and death records that have been recently added to the site - however the existing collection (of around 8 million entries) isn't included in the offer.
In Scotland all deaths must be registered within 8 days, but in England & Wales a death cannot be registered until the cause of death has been established (for deaths referred to a coroner). A consequence of this procedure is that there are around 10,000 deaths per annum which are registered at least 6 months after the event, so many deaths fall into a different calendar year.
It's not only the genealogists of the future who will be affected by this anomaly - there was an editorial in the October issue of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A) describing the shortcomings of the present system, and listing 10 reasons why it should be changed.
I suspect that in the first half of the 19th century, when civil registration was introduced in England & Wales the delays would have been much shorter, not least because there were far fewer medical tests that could be carried out. Once again the registration system in England & Wales seems to be mired in the past, rather than looking to the future!
Note: there's a mention for yours truly in the October issue of 'Significance', the magazine of the RSS (but which also goes out to members of the American Statistical Association). In an article on the Monty Hall problem (which I presented as the 'Doors challenge' earlier this year) the editor refers to the disbelieving comments I received after publishing the solution in my newsletter. I hope everyone was convinced eventually.....
You'll recall that I recently asked my local MP, the Right Honourable Sir Alan Haselhurst, to take up with the Home Secretary the issues I raised in my letter to her earlier this year, and which attracted nothing more than a dismissive response from the Communications Manager at the GRO (you'll find a copy of my letter and key extracts from the reply here).
It turns out that even a distinguished parliamentarian like Sir Alan (a former Deputy Speaker) wasn't considered worthy of a ministerial response to the initial letter he wrote on my behalf - and I could tell that he was just as affronted by the treatment he received as I had been.† I understand that he has given them a further opportunity to respond - let's hope that this time the matter receives proper consideration.
It's not just cricket.... COMPETITION
†Sir Alan is also Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Cricket Group, and a member of the MCC. In his spare time he writes novels about a fictional cricket team called Outcasts Cricket Club - the latest in the series is Fatally Cricket, a whodunit (you can read a few sample pages from the book is you follow this link and click on the picture of the cover).
Sir Alan may not be the next Agatha Christie, but I certainly wanted to know the ending - so I bought a copy of the book, which the author kindly autographed after he updated me on the GRO issue.
I've got a second autographed copy which I'm going to give as a prize to the LostCousins member who wins my next competition (you can see the title page on the left). No knowledge of cricket is required, so anyone can win - all you need to do is invite other family historians to join LostCousins using your My Referrals page.
The member who encourages the most new members to open a free LostCousins account (and start using it) will be the winner. In the event of a tie I'll add up the number of relatives entered (on their respective My Ancestors pages) by the people each entrant referred during the competition period.
Your My Referrals page allows you to invite both friends and relatives, and when you invite a relative to join you have the option of identifying the entries on your My Ancestors page that they share - in which case those relatives will appear automatically on their My Ancestors page. But please don't invite people who aren't either already researching their family tree, or seriously intending to start - LostCousins is all about quality, not quantity!
Note: you don't need to provide an email address in order to make a referral, but if you do the process will be simpler both for you and for your friend or relative. I guarantee that I won't use your friend or relative's email address again (unless you ask me to send them a reminder).
The competition will close on Monday 16th December, so you've got plenty of time to make those referrals - but why leave it to the last minute? Based on the results of previous similar competitions in the past you could win by referring as few as 5 or 6 people, so everyone really does have a chance.
There's no need to tell me that you're entering - every member who uses their My Referrals page will be automatically entered in the competition.
Here are some suggestions to help get you started:
∑ If I was entering the competition (I'm not allowed to, of course) I'd start with the cousins I'd met through other websites - Genes Reunited or Ancestry, for example. You might even consider inviting people you've been incorrectly matched with at another site, though only if it was the inadequacies of the system that caused the error, not if it was the result of the other person's carelessness.
∑ You have the option to include a personal message - this can help to distinguish the email your friend or relative will receive from the spam emails we all get.
∑ You don't necessarily need to know the other person's email address - simply print out the information out and hand it to them, or copy and paste it into a message that you send via another site. The most important thing is the referral code - they must enter that when they register.
∑ Don't assume that because you're already a LostCousins member your cousins won't benefit from joining - even a 1st cousin only shares half of your family tree, whilst a 2nd cousin shares just a quarter.
∑ If you're not sure whether one of your cousins is already a member you can go go to your My Cousins page, click Connect to a member you already know in the top right, then enter their email address. If they're a member already they'll receive an invitation to connect with you; if they're not a member the email address you've entered will be rejected.
Note: although only one person can win the prize, everyone wins when new members join LostCousins, because every new member is the 'lost cousin' of numerous existing members. Entering the competition is also a way to show your gratitude to Sir Alan for his help with the GRO.
We've got an incredible line-up of speakers for Genealogy in the Sunshine, which takes place next March in the beautiful Rocha Brava resort on Portugal's Algarve coast.
In the last issue I broke the news that Chris Paton, the Irish-born but Scottish-based professional family historian, author and tutor would be speaking - and I can now reveal that he will be joined by John Hanson, who writes extensively on family history and has lectured all over England (including at WDYTYA Live). Currently Research Director of the Halsted Trust, an educational charity that promotes family history research through One-Name Studies, John is a former trustee of the Society of Genealogists.
Our third main speaker surely needs no introduction. As the Genealogist at the Society of Genealogists since 1998, Else Churchill not only writes and lectures extensively (she has a regular column in Your Family Tree), she also represents the genealogical community on key committees - for example, she sits on the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Panel on National Records and Archives.
But the good news doesn't stop there: Debbie Kennett, author and Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London will explain how DNA testing can complement more traditional research methods and give one-to-one advice, whilst Donald Davis† - whose ground-breaking research into the householder schedules for the 1841 Census was revealed earlier this year in The Local Historian - will be explaining how his discovery can help us interpret the entries that we see in the enumerator's books.
As well as formal talks, panel sessions, and workshops there will be many informal opportunities to pick the brains of the experts - and I'll be organising social activities too, so it will definitely be a week to remember! Even before the speakers were announced there were already firm bookings for 38 of the 40 places, but having measured the room we'll be using on my visit to the resort last week I now know that we can fit in a couple more delegates if necessary - so if you're very quick there's a chance you might be able to join us.
Note: all of the speakers have been LostCousins members for many years, but that's just a happy coincidence - they were invited to speak because of their vast knowledge and experience. (Mind you, even the average LostCousins member is far more experienced than the people you'll find on other sites!)
Since the LostCousins forum started its pre-launch trial earlier this year I've been surprised how many people use a smartphone or tablet, rather than a computer, to access it. Indeed, I've even found myself doing the same!
I was therefore especially interested to learn that Who Do You Think You Are? magazine has launched an app to make it easier for mobile users to access their forum - and that versions for Android and iOS are available free from the Play and Apple stores.
Tickets for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014 are now on sale, and when you click here and use the code EARLY2422 you can 2 tickets for £22. As usual the show will be held at London's Olympia, but for the first time it will run from Thursday to Saturday, rather than Friday to Sunday - the precise dates are Thursday 20th February to Saturday 22nd February.
An amazing 3D reconstruction of 17th century London
I seem to be visiting YouTube more and more often these days - no wonder, when you can find films as impressive as this 3D reconstruction of London before the Great Fire created by a team of 6 students at De Montfort University and based on contemporary maps. Of course, there are a few things missing - there are no people, no animals, and no dirt!
Tip: you can see a shorter clip on the BBC website here.
The Personal Genome Project UK is part of a global initiative to collect DNA from individuals - with their permission - and sequence it for the benefit of humanity. There are risks involved in taking part in this project - although your name will not be published your DNA will be, and in theory it might be possible for you to be identified. The Guardian newspaper are certainly doing all they can to warn people off, as you can see here.
However, the potential benefits for humanity are so great that I registered my interest immediately - I don't have any children, so it's possibly the only way my genes can contribute to the evolution of the human race. And let's face it, if someone actually wanted a sample of my DNA it wouldn't be that hard to get one without my knowledge - I leave a DNA sample almost every time I touch something, whether it's a door knob or a coffee cup.
If you decide to volunteer I'd be interested to know what your reasons are!
A year ago I revealed that BrightSolid (now DC Thomson Family History) was the frontrunner in a competitive tender to put school records online - you'll find the original article here.
Findmypast has now announced that work has started on a project to publish over one million school registers covering the period 1870-1914, and the first registers to be digitised are from East Anglia, London, the North West and South West.
Just before the last issue went to press I heard that ScotlandsPeople were about to release the 1920 Valuation Rolls, which list 2.6 million names and include over 76,000 images - but unfortunately I wasn't allowed to disclose this information ahead of the official launch on 28th October.
You can search by name or by address, and if the occupant of the property was not the owner, then the name of the owner is given.†
Note: last issue I wrote that you could access all the Scotlandspeople records for a fixed daily charge of £15 if you went to Edinburgh, which prompted a note from Joan to remind me that you can also access the records at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, although booking in advance is essential (and the opening hours are slightly shorter).
When LostCousins first began to support the Scotland 1881 census in September 2004 it was very simple - there was only one transcription of the census, and it could only be accessed in two ways. One was to purchase a CD ROM set of the 1881 Census from FamilySearch, the other was to use the ScotlandsPeople site. Either way, you got precisely the same information.
Eventually Ancestry produced a transcription of the census, but chose different terminology for the census references (and a slightly different format). Now there are two more transcriptions, one produced by ScotlandsPeople (though they still also have the FamilySearch transcription) and one from findmypast. Again there are problems with the census references because there has been no consistency.
To make it as easy as possible for members the Add Ancestor form has some helpful explanatory notes, and if youíre taking your information from Ancestry or ScotlandsPeople you should have no problems provided you follow the examples. However it isn't quite as easy when you're using findmypast as your source, so I've created a PDF document to explain what to do (you can also access it from the Help & Advice page at the LostCousins site).
Findmypast has added a further 2.3 million Irish petty sessions court records, so that there are now an amazing 17.6 million records covering the period from 1842-1913, a very high number in relation to the size of the population, although obviously some of the miscreants will feature many times!
LostCousins member Richard Heaton has compiled a very handy index to newspapers which have been digitised and made available online, and identifies where they can be found. Inevitably most of the links are to subscription sites, but it's worth remembering that most libraries in Britain offer free access to various newspaper collections (some of which can be accessed from home using your library number).
I heard about Richard's index from another LostCousins member, Beth - who also reminded me that whilst we normally tend to look to findmypast for newspapers (since they offer access to the massive British Newspaper Archives collection), you can also find a smaller collection of newspapers at Ancestry.
There are now over 7 million pages from newspapers in the British Library collection online at the British Newspaper Archive as the project continues to head towards the target of 40 million pages online by 2021.
Tip: you can access the newspapers through findmypast.co.uk if you have a Britain Full or World subscription.
The LostCousins system doesn't work properly if you enter someone else's relatives, but this needn't stop you searching for the cousins of your spouse or partner.
It's now possible to have two LostCousins accounts that use the same email address, just so long as they have different passwords - to switch from one account to the other simply log-out of the first account and log-in to the second.
Tip: you can only be logged into one account at a time if you use a single browser on a single computer. However, if you install a second browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome you can have one account open I one browser and the second account open in the other (this is because each browser has its own set of 'cookies').
If you open two accounts you can usually link them together to save money with a joint subscription, ie if the other account is in the name of your spouse or partner, an in-law, a child/parent, or a grandchild/grandparent. A joint subscription only costs slightly more than a single subscription (£12.50 compared with £10) so it's a lot cheaper than taking out two single subscriptions.
You'll only be offered the option of a joint subscription if your account has already been linked to another account. Linking your LostCousins account to that of another member is easy, and only needs to be done once - simply enter the other person's Membership Number (shown near the top of their My Summary page) in the appropriate box on your My Details page.
Note: if the person you want to link with doesn't have a LostCousins account they'll need to register first (if you register on their behalf you should do so in their name, not your own, to avoid confusion).
When I read this story on the BBC website it reminded me of the way that in the 18th and 19th century foundings were often named after the place they were found - hence the name Henry High Street accorded to a 9 month old baby in Hull Union Workhouse at the time of the 1861 Census (his birthplace is shown as "found in High Street Hull"). Sadly young Henry died a few months after census was taken - I learned about him from this blog article about how foundlings were named, not just in England but also in the USA.
At the Foundling Hospital, established in London in 1739 by Thomas Coram, all children who were admitted were given new names to protect the anonymity of the birth mothers - a practice that continued until 1948 (the first two children to be taken in were baptised as Thomas and Eunice Coram in 1741). The website Foundling Voices has an amazing collection of films and audio recorded by people who grew up in the care of the Hospital between 1912 and 1954.
I got LostCousins started in 2004 by handing out leaflets to people queuing outside the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster - it was the weekend of the Society of Genealogists Annual Fair. Subsequently I produced leaflets and simple posters for display in records offices or in the research rooms of family history societies.
However, after a while I found that I didn't have as much time as before - partly because this newsletter was becoming a more regular (and more frequent) publication, and partly because my father was getting on, so I had other priorities. As a result I stopped producing leaflets unless there was a specific request.
Recently I received this email from Sheila:
"I recommended LostCousins to a lady who was pretty new to family history who I met at a Woking family history open day a couple of weeks ago. I know you run the website yourself and can't possibly get round to all these events, but I did wonder if you might perhaps make leaflets available? The Research Room at the West Surrey Family History Society Open Day had an unmanned table with leaflets from many different organisations. So many people have still not heard of your brilliant website."
Reading Sheila's comments I realised that it was time to start distributing leaflets again - so if you would like some for members of your family history society or U3A group, or if you work in a records office and would like to have a pile on the counter, just let me know!
Note: if you're able to print out the leaflets yourself that would be ideal - I would send you a Word or PDF file customised to your requirements. Alternatively you could include some text and a link in another document you're producing, such as a newsletter.
You may recall that last month I mentioned that I'd moved my electricity account to avoid a 10% increase, and managed to find a fixed rate deal that was even cheaper than the tariff I've been on for the past year.
When I got back from Portugal, where I'd been making final arrangements for next year's course, I was dumbfounded to open a second letter from Npower, who have been my electricity suppliers for the past year. Without making any reference to their earlier letter (both were dated October 2013 and referred to new tariffs coming in on 1st December) they now told me that my bill for the coming year will be 20.3% higher!
Ironically both letters were headed "Making energy clearer for you" and continued "We've made some important changes as we continue on our journey to making things clearer, simpler and more transparent".
If that's the best they can do, it's hardly surprising that households in Britain are concerned about the rising cost of power and the complicated tariffs. Fortunately my new supplier will take over on 1st December so I won't be affected by these price increases. It took me less than 10 minutes to find the best quote and switch - thanks to the free Which? Switch site - so I really don't understand why everyone doesn't do the same.
That isn't the only good decision I've made recently - I mentioned a month ago that I'd bought myself a backup power source, so that if the electricity went off suddenly I'd be able to close down my computer in my own time, rather than risking losing any data (indeed, if the root directory of the hard drive was being written to at the time I could lose the whole lot). As you'll see, it came in useful rather sooner than I expected!
My flight to Portugal was on the morning that the devastating storm hit, and our electricity went off just after 7am. It was still off when I left - in fact I was already at the Rocha Brava resort by the time that it came back on again. Fortunately I'd already started copying files over to the laptop I was taking with me, and I was able to copy over all the others that I needed before closing down my desktop PC in an orderly fashion. I even had Internet access during this time, because the router was also connected to the backup power supply.
If you value your data as much as I value mine you'll find details of the unit I bought here (and if you're quick you'll get it for £69.99, £5 less than I paid!).
Thanks to everyone who has written to thank me for recommending The Marriage Certificate (you may recall that I interviewed the author in the last issue). The most recent email I received was from Carole, who wrote "I downloaded it to my Kindle and couldn't put it down!† It was a real page turner and I loved the little kick at the end (even though I hoped it was coming!)."
It's amazing how connections can be made - the more alert we are, the more we'll discover. For example, Jill wrote to tell me about a serendipitous contact that came about when she followed my link to the Francis Frith site (her email was headed "A HUGE THANK YOU", so I knew she was pleased even before I read it):
"Dear Peter, I feel I must drop you a line!
I have always found your newsletters to be informative, entertaining and the tips and snippets you send at the end of your emails I look forward to every month!!!!
However in the last email, you exceeded all my expectations when I followed your link to the Francis Firth collection, which I have visited before, but on this occasion there was a memory posted on it by a long lost friend who had emigrated from our village to live in Australia. I had been searching for my childhood friend for years but did not know if she had her maiden name etc... †Well, thanks to you I have now found her and know her married name and am going to try and contact her.
I could not believe it when I saw her letter - you really made my day Peter!!!!!! Thank you so much, please keep the letters coming!
Kindest regards, Jill"
When I replied to Jill, I wrote "that's great news - and completely unexpected. But then so many of the discoveries we make are - it's what makes our hobby so interesting!"
So often what we get out of something depends on what we put into it. Similarly, the LostCousins members who have entered most relatives on their My Ancestors pages have found the most 'lost cousins' (over 50 in some cases) - whilst those who haven't entered any data have found absolutely no-one.
All this week there are special offers and extra discounts at The Book People, where prices are already very low - for example, today (Wednesday) there's a free gift and free delivery when you spend over £25 (the free gift I chose had an RRP of £26!). If you missed that offer, follow this link to find out what today's special offer is.
I hope you have found this newsletter interesting, amusing - and perhaps even useful!
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
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