Newsletter - 5th April 2014
The LostCousins newsletter is
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As the inaugural Genealogy in the Sunshine course came to an end I was already starting to plan next year's event, so positive had been the feedback from attendees! Every speaker got favourable comments on the feedback forms, and as for the resort - everyone loved it, despite the problems that a small number experienced with WiFi or TV (both were new systems that were still being modified - there shouldn't be any problems next time).
Rocha Brava is quite a unique place - my wife and I often compare it to Portmeirion, the Italianate village in North Wales where we spent to many Easters, and which was chosen as the setting for the 1960s series The Prisoner.
Although there were only 43 people on the course many had brought friends or family with them, so with the speakers there were 70 of us at the Rocha Brava resort's O Farol restaurant for the last night dinner - so many, in fact, that we took the restaurant over for the evening.
We were very lucky with the weather - it was so warm and sunny during the day that the formal afternoon workshops that I'd planned for rainy days had to be converted into informal sessions around the pool. It also enabled us to have breaks outside, which - since the room we were using was only just big enough, and the chairs could be a little uncomfortable - made things a LOT easier.
Next time we'll have a much larger room - indeed, we'll probably use both rooms so that there can be two sessions running simultaneously. Offering twin tracks will make it easier to construct a programme that meets everyone's needs, whether they're on the course for the first time or are coming back for more - and it will also allow attendees to choose their own balance between formal presentations and smaller workshops.
We had wonderfully knowledgeable speakers at this year's event - I certainly hope that they'll be able to come back next year, because there's so much all of us can learn from them (and from each other, too).
The photo above was taken by Gill's husband Richard, on the Sunday before the course officially started - we'd just had a light afternoon tea so that we could start getting to know each other. I'm at the back left (my grey hairs are glinting in the sunshine), Chris Paton is in front of me, whilst Else Churchill and John Hanson are in the middle at the front.
Genealogy in the Sunshine was intended to be part course, part holiday - we met each weekday morning at 9am so that afternoons were free: this allowed plenty of time to explore the coastline, walk down to one of the sandy coves, discover the village of Praia do Carvoeiro, or (for those suffering from withdrawal symptoms) visit the Aqua Shopping Centre in Portimao.
On the Tuesday evening 20 of us took part in a Safari Supper - it proved to be a great way for attendees, speakers, and accompanying friends and partners to mix in congenial surroundings, so it's definitely on the agenda for next year. Then on Wednesday we met up for drinks in the bar of the O Farol restaurant - and as it was Owners' Night it was a chance to meet some of the people who own properties, or shares in properties, at the resort. Friday came all too soon - but in the evening we had the end-of-course dinner, at which one of the attendees, another Peter, gave a very witty monologue reminding us of the highlights of the week (it reminded me of the 'ditties' my late father used to write and perform).
This photo is one I took with my phone - it shows Praia de Vale de Centianes, a 10 minute walk from Rocha Brava, just before sunset on my last night in Portugal; the beach was empty, the sea was rough, but the view was astounding!
Next year's event is likely to be either in late March or after Easter - but I'm also looking at the possibility of arranging a smaller event in late October or early November of this year (when the average daily high is about 20 degrees and the average night-time low around 12 degrees). The autumn event, if it goes ahead, would be informal, with the emphasis on collaborating in order to knock down 'brick walls' and socialising - and if there's sufficient interest I might even organise a tennis course (there are 4 lovely courts and an excellent tennis coach).
I've posted a copy of the course timetable in an open area of the LostCousins Forum - you'll find it here - and I'm going to invite attendees to post their photos and reminiscences in the same area. While we were in Portugal we used the forum as our main means of communication: we may all have been staying in the same resort, but it covers nearly 60 acres, so the WiFi came in really useful!
Great news - it seems that the experts agreed with my assessment of the published responses to the consultation into the future of the census (see the article in the New Year issue of this newsletter), and as result the 2021 Census will be going ahead after all!
I was also heartened to see that 306 of the 444 individuals who responded to the consulation are family historians, and that three-quarters of them are LostCousins members - it just goes to show that our voice does count.
On the day before the consultation closed I was at the height of my (dengue) fever; it must have subsided a little by the next day because my own submission on behalf of LostCousins seems to make a lot of sense:
"The savings from switching to a mostly online census have been grossly under-estimated. The number of online submissions in 2011 was artificially low because it was far more difficult to complete online than on paper - and there was no incentive for householders to submit their returns online. Furthermore, the number of householders submitting online returns will increase in 2031, 2041 etc, which means that the cost of the traditional census will continue falling. With the right incentives I'd expect 70% of returns to be submitted online in 2021, and by 2041 it will be virtually 100%.
"However the biggest error is to assume that if we continue with a traditional ten-yearly census it won't be possible to update the statistics in between censuses. If 70% of returns are submitted online then the ONS will be able to collect the email addresses of 70% of the households in the country - that makes it very easy to provide updates between censuses (based on random samples)."†††
Thank to everyone who responded - and well done!
These days many people in Britain seem to be concerned about immigrants from other countries coming to claim benefits, but in previous centuries it was much more parochial - people were worried about inhabitants of other parishes pushing up their poor rates.
The Poor Law Act of 1601 said that after one month's residence in a parish a person would be deemed to be settled there, and could claim relief from the authorities if need be - but in 1662 the rules were changed by the Poor Law Relief Act, so that a migrant could be sent back to their place of origin if they were deemed not to be legally entitled to settle in the new parish.
Ancestry.co.uk have recently added a large number of records for Poor Law Unions in East London (Bethnal Green, Hackney, Poplar, Shoreditch, and Stepney) which include Settlement Examinations, Settlement Papers, and Removal Orders - the earliest date from 1828 and the latest from 1930.
A much larger collection of records, covering England & Wales (with a few Irish records) can be found in the Society of Genealogists' Library - for details see the March 2014 issue of the SoG Journal, pp169-177.
The new findmypast site seems to have been well received when it was previewed at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in February, but clearly there's a big difference between casual use and research.
When subscribers began to be switched over to the new site in mid-March there were many complaints about the new search - and whilst much the same happened when FamilySearch and Ancestry upgraded their sites, in those cases there was a long period of double-running which allowed for substantial refinement before the old systems were switched off.
Sadly findmypast seem to have made the same mistake as Ancestry and FamilySearch - allowing their programming geniuses to design the new site rather than listening more closely to family historians, some of whom who are also pretty IT-savvy. Whilst I certainly wouldn't describe myself as an expert, I started programming before most of those whiz-kids were even born - indeed, I came up with the idea of filtering (or something very like it) in 1980, though I'm sure I wasn't the first.
Obviously with the benefit of hindsight they wouldn't have done what they've done in the way they did it. However we all make mistakes, and I'd rather findmypast were able to focus on getting things right as quickly as possible, rather than spending all their time apologising to angry subscribers. It's not that we don't have a right to be annoyed - it's just that constructive criticism is what's needed, not blind rage (no matter how annoyed you and I might feel!).
To their credit, having realised their error, findmypast have provided a forum where users can post their concerns and help to prioritise the improvements that are needed.
When you're using the feedback forum bear in mind that the old site is gone for ever - it simply couldn't have coped with the vastly greater amounts of data that are coming on stream from 2014 onwards. If the new technology is as flexible as findmypast suggest then they should be able to restore the key functionality that has been lost, whilst retaining the extremely powerful searches that simply wouldn't have been possible at the old site.
Let's hope this current crisis is soon forgotten - I suspect few now remember the fiasco in 2010 when findmypast offered free access during England's World Cup matches, but it was just as frustrating at the time!
Annelies Van Den Belt, the CEO of findmypast posted this message on Facebook on Friday:
"We take your concerns seriously and I want to assure you we are listening to you. The old site was unable to handle the volume of records we are publishing this year so we made the decision to move to the new platform. I acknowledge that there are some features that are not currently available on the new site and we are working hard to integrate the key features youíve identified.
"We cannot answer every query on Facebook, but you can get in touch with our customer support team directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, send your feedback to us via our Feedback Forum so that we can work through each issue.
"Again, I thank you for your ongoing support and your expert feedback."
You can read about the latest updates to the findmypast site here. A final thought - could the new search system with its dependence on filtering possibly have anything to do with the announcement in the next article? It certainly makes the findmypast experience closer to the one at FamilySearch.....
It has long been the case that Ancestry and findmypast have offered free access to their sites at LDS Family History Centres around the world but, according to this article on the LDS new service, in May members of the LDS Church will be offered free subscriptions to both sites.
This arrangement reflects the key role that FamilySearch plays in supporting the commercial sites' extensive program of digitization and transcription, and the support of LDS members through the tithes they pay to their church.
Tithes were originally payments in kind, but over the centuries money payments came to be substituted for the crops, milk, wool and other produce of the land - and whilst the payments originally went to support the parish church and its clergy, the dissolution of the monasteries resulted in much church land (and the accompanying tithes) passing into private ownership.
In 1836 the Tithe Act decreed that all tithes should be commuted, ie turned into money payments, and this prompted the collection of data for the whole of England & Wales, much of which is held by the National Archives at Kew and is now being digitized by The Genealogist. There's an excellent research guide on the TNA site which you'll find here.
Already there are 11 million records that can be searched online; the names in the transcribed records include tenants and landowners from over 11,000 parishes across England & Wales (you can also view high quality digital images of the original documents). Typically you'll find the name of the landowner, the name of the tenant, a brief description of the property, its dimensions, and the number by which it can be identified on the tithe maps (which are due to be uploaded as part of the second stage of the project).
For example, my great-great-great grandmother Ruth Beaumont was shown as occupying a cottage and garden in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire which was one of many properties in the area owned by the Marquis of Westminster. When the tithe maps become available online I'll be able to see exactly where it was!
Until the end of April you can save £20 on a top subscription to The Genealogist, bringing the price down to under £100 for 12 months - and you'll also get 12 free issues of their online magazine Discover Your Ancestors (normal cost £12), making a total saving of £32!
At The Genealogist you'll find all of the England & Wales censuses from 1841-1911, and they have their own transcriptions - even for the key 1881 Census (other sites use the LDS transcription) - so you may be able to find elusive ancestors whose names or other details have been mistranscribed at other sites. Crucially you can search ALL of the censuses by occupation, which might not be much use for 'ag labs', but it pinpointed my wheelwright ancestor William Noakes instantly, even in the difficult 1841 Census.
I've written above about the Tithe records, but other collections that you may not have found elsewhere include Non-Conformist records and pre-1858 wills for the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (both from the National Archives). And whilst their newspaper collection is currently quite modest, they are in the process of digitizing the Illustrated London News from 1842-1915, an important publication which I haven't found at any other sites.
Another recent addition to The Genealogist are 89,000 criminal records from HO27, held by the National Archives, which cover indictable offences in England & Wales between 1782-1892. Searching those records I found an Isaac Calver who in 1815 was sentenced at Bury St Edmunds to one month's imprisonment and a whipping - I suspect he was my great-great-great-great-great uncle, about whom I previously knew nothing apart from his baptism in 1791.
To take advantage of the offer click here (when you use that link the LOSTAPR14 offer code will be entered automatically).
Tip: unlike most offers the £20 discount I've negotiated isn't a one-off saving - you'll also save £20 each time you renew!
In February 2007 I sent the following email to the Office for National Statistics, of which the General Register Office was then a part:
"I wish to inspect the register created under the National Registration Act 1939.
"I was told when I telephoned recently that this information is covered by the Census Act 1920, and therefore cannot be revealed until it is 100 years old, but having subsequently read the text of the National Registration Act I cannot see any evidence that this is correct.
"Please let me know when it would be convenient for me to inspect the register."
My request was rejected, as was my appeal - so I referred the matter to the Information Commissioner. It took several months to get to the top of the list, but in early January 2008 they finally took up the cudgel. A few months later the ICO phoned to tell me that they were minded to decide in my favour - but in the intervening period the National Register had been passed from the GRO to the NHS Information Centre, so the whole process would have to start again!
At this point I had to bow out, not because I couldn't win, but because my father - by then 92 years old - became a more important cause to fight for. Fortunately Guy Etchells was also campaigning for access to the register and the following year he succeeded - however the publication scheme established by the NHS Information Centre involved a £42 charge per household, which made it prohibitively expensive given the limited information in the register.
Nevertheless it seems that after 9 years I'm finally going to get my wish - the National Archives has joined forces with DC Thomson Family History (owners of Genes Reunited and findmypast) to make the register available over the course of the next 2 years. There is one drawback - to protect the privacy of living people information relating to anyone born less than 100 years ago will be redacted unless proof of their death can be provided.
There's an announcement on the findmypast blog here.
As regular readers will know, for some years now I've been running a campaign to make the historic BMD registers held by the General Register Office available online.
Whilst I don't believe that online petitions are usually the best way forward, Guy Etchells - who has also been campaigning - has launched an online petition which strikes the right balance (unlike some earlier misguided attempts), and I'd encourage you to support it. When I checked earlier today there were only 1,418 signatories out of the 100,000 required to prompt a debate in the House of Commons, but if every British citizen reading this newsletter signed we'd be nearly half way there.
Tip: you don't need to be a family historian to support this sensible suggestion - anyone who is a British taxpayer ought to be in favour!
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland GRONI has launched their online service which offers birth, marriage, and death entries for just £2 each. See Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy News blog for more details.
Note: the intransigence of the General Register Office in Southport means that England & Wales are now nearly 2 centuries behind the rest of the UK when it comes to the provision of birth, marriage, and death information. This is an achievement which ranks with the England cricket team's recent Twenty20 thrashing by the Netherlands!
According to the Daily Telegraph a former dustman owns one of the best collections of WW1 photos after salvaging them from the rubbish he was collecting. You'll find some evocative examples here.
You may have read this article on the BBC News site about the identification of ten soldiers following the analysis of DNA samples provided by their relatives - but did you recognise the name Leonard Arthur Morley? Last November I published a wonderful article by LostCousins member Vickie Beamish about her Uncle Leonard, and her involvement in the quest to identify as many as possible of the fallen soldiers from his battalion - you can read it again here.
Library and Archives Canada recently announced plans to put online about 640,000 service records for the men and women who volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War 1 whether as soldiers, nurses, or chaplains (there are already about 620,000 attestation papers and over 13,000 service records online).
However the announcement on their website read: "At the end of the project, expected in 2015, Canadians will have unprecedented access to this rich resource and will be able to research high-quality digital copies of the more than 650,000 service files for free." At least 5 of my relatives joined the CEF so I was concerned that researchers outside Canada might not have the same access as Canadians.
I therefore wrote to LAC whose Head of Media Relations informed me that "the term 'Canadians' was simply used because Library and Archives Canada is located in Canada and Canadians are its primary clientele. There will not be any geographical access restrictions and any and all pages will be accessible to people around the world, free of charge."
The first batch of service records - due later this year - will cover surnames from A to D, so I'll soon be able to find out more about the five Calver brothers from Toronto who were my 1st cousins twice removed. I already know that four of the five survived the war - but sadly Dick was killed just 11 days before the Armistice was signed (you can see his headstone here). Seven years later Dick's younger brother Ernest married his widow, Hilda, and I know from passenger records they were still together in 1960 - so perhaps the story had a happy ending after all?
Those 5 brothers came from a family of 15, which wasn't particularly unusual in the late 19th century. What was fairly unusual, however, is that almost all of them were known by their middle name, not their first name - and that's how they are shown in censuses and newspaper reports. Amazingly there are no duplications amongst the 32 forenames (two of them had three forenames), unless you consider 'Dick' and 'Richard' to be the same name.
Whilst it's unusual for an entire family to use their middle names, it's quite common to find individuals who chose to use their middle name rather than their first name. Furthermore, in the late 19th and early centuries some people invented middle names that aren't shown on their birth certificate - which can makes it more difficult to find their marriage and death entries.
But it's not a one way street - sometimes middle names that were given at birth were dropped in later life. It's challenges like these that make our hobby so fascinating!
Last chance to get a free photo repair ENDS 11TH APRIL
Hundreds of readers of this newsletter have already used the newly-launched photo repair and retouching service that I discovered in January. Because everything's done digitally you don't need to part with your precious originals - simply scan them in.
However, you've only got one week left if you want to take advantage of their amazing introductory offer - a free photo repair worth up to £8.99 (with absolutely no obligation - though I suspect that once you've seen what they can achieve you'll be back for more!).
Don't delay - click here to find out more.
Note: I'm currently trying to persuade them to provide a colorizing service for old black and white photos - it's likely to be more expensive than the current services, but considering the way that it will bring the images of our ancestors to life, I suspect many family historians will leap at the opportunity. There are examples of colorization that will give you some idea of the potential here and here.
King Henry VIII famously went through six wives in the quest for a son and heir, but concern for one's spouse's fertility isn't confined to royalty - it is said that one of the reasons that so many brides were pregnant on their wedding day was because a man wouldn't marry unless his wife had demonstrated that she was capable of bearing his children.
But what happened to the women who didn't get pregnant - did they remain for ever single? I was pondering this question recently after realising that the women in my tree who married late didn't seem to have any children, and wondering whether this was because they had married for companionship or security rather than love, or because they were infertile?
What does the evidence in your tree tell us? I'd be interested to know.
After my article in the last newsletter about the abolition of car tax discs I received an email from Mo to let me know that Huntingdonshire Record Office has a card index of early vehicle licensing records - which prompted me to search A2A (Access to Archives) to see whether other record offices hold similar records (they do).
As you know, I love genealogical mysteries - so it was quite a surprise that I managed to refrain from reading A Habit of Dying by D J Wiseman for nearly 4 months after it was recommended by George (when he wrote to tell me how much he'd enjoyed The Marriage Certificate).
But once I picked it up, I simply couldn't put it down - perhaps because, like the heroine of the book, I'd also bought photograph albums and other family items at auctions and dreamt of reuniting them with relatives of their former owners. Indeed, you may recall that over a year ago some of us were trying to analyse the contents of a Birthday Book that I'd acquired around the turn of the milliennium with the aim of identifying who had owned it, and what the connection was between the people who had signed the book.
Whilst A Habit of Dying may not have so many twists and turns as some of the other books I've recommended recently, that came as a welcome relief - life's complicated enough - and the fact that it didn't dart backwards and forwards from past to present also made it an easier read (which was precisely what I needed after an arduous 10 days stage-managing Genealogy in the Sunshine). At the same time I found that I could enjoy the book on several different levels - it certainly wasn't shallow, like so much of the fiction that gets hoisted on us nowadays.
No new tips this time because there's so much genealogy news, but I must just take this opportunity to be pat myself on the back.....
My warning in February about annuities was very timely - because in last month's Budget the Chancellor announced changes to pensions which mean that many people will be able to use their pension savings much more efficiently.
Then in the last newsletter I wrote "I really wish I could invest in ZOPA through my Cash ISA" - another wish that came true in the Budget. Perhaps George Osborne reads this newsletter?
This is where I'll post any last minute news, updates, or offers.
Thanks for taking the time to read this newsletter - I hope you found some of the articles useful and others thought-provoking!
© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver
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