Newsletter - 2 August 2010
About this newsletter
The LostCousins newsletter is published twice a month on average, and all LostCousins members are notified by email when a new edition is available (unless they opt out). To access the previous newsletter (dated 16 July 2010) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; in due course there will be an online index to articles.
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Although the newsletters are hosted at LostCousins, they are not part of the main website. Click here to go to the main website and search for your living relatives.
Not surprisingly there was a lot of correspondence from members concerned about the possibility that the 2011 England & Wales census may be the last (Scotland are planning to continue with censuses regardless of cost, or so they say). Some members suggested that the census could be financed from the revenue that the National Archives gets from licensing the census images to companies like Ancestry and findmypast - but unfortunately the cost (projected at £482 million in 2011) far exceeds the income that the National Archives receives (less than £3m from ALL censuses in 2009/10).
Quite a few members liked the idea I floated a couple of months ago of keeping copies of our 2011 Census forms, and running our own census is a natural extension of that. Indeed, without Government interference we could choose our own questions, and collect the data more frequently if we wished (let's face it, a lot can happen in 10 years!).
But the suggestion that really resonated with me came from Jill in Australia - she suggested that birth, marriage, and death certificates should include far more information than they do at present, and as an illustration Jill described what you'll find on a modern Australian death certificate:
DECEASED: Name, Occupation, Sex, Age, Date of Death, Place of Death, Where Born (and if not born in Australia, period of residence in Australia)
PARENTS: Name and Occupation of Father; Name and Maiden Surname of Mother
MARRIAGES: Where, at what age and to whom deceased was married
CHILDREN: Names and Ages
MEDICAL: Cause of death Duration Medical Attendant by whom certified When he/she last saw deceased
BURIAL OR CREMATION: When and where buried or cremated. By whom certified. Name and Religion of minister and/or names of two witnessed of burial or cremation
INFORMANT: Name, description or relationship and residence
REGISTRAR: Name, date and place of registration
NOTES: (if any)
When civil registration was introduced in Scotland in 1855, birth certificates for that first year included the age and birthplace of the child's parents, and details of their other children - that's almost as much information as you'd find on a census. Whether or not the census continues, wouldn't it be great if BMD certificates provided a much more comprehensive record of the family relationships - particularly now that the relationships are so complex?
Were moral standards in Britain higher in Victorian times, as some politicians have suggested? Certainly when I look at my own tree I have to wonder - my great-great-great grandmother Jane was born in the same year as Queen Victoria, but had at least 4 children before her first marriage in 1846.
Two of them may possibly have been the children of the man she later married - but whilst he mentioned them in his will, he did not acknowledge that he was the father. It was certainly an unusual match - he was 44 years older than Jane, with a daughter from his first marriage who was 24 years older than her new step-mother!
They did have one child in their 2 years of marriage, but after her husband died Jane went back to her old ways, bearing yet another illegitimate child - her 5th - in 1851. This was the same year that her eldest child, my great-great grandmother, married at the tender age of 15 or 16 (though not only did she claim to be 18, she also invented the name of a father).
In 1863 Jane married for the second time, giving birth to 2nd legitimate child two years later - and so far as I know that that was the end of Jane's child-bearing days, though she was to live on well into the 20th century, outliving her contemporary Queen Victoria (the longest-reigning British monarch) by 6 years.
Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753 ("An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage") required that for a marriage in England or Wales to be valid it must be carried out in a parish church after the publication of banns or the obtaining of a licence. Jews, Quakers, and members of the Royal Family were not covered by the Act.
Each parish was required to keep a Register of Banns, which could either be a separate register, or integrated with the Register of Marriages and, whilst not all of them have survived, they can often provide a vital clue to the whereabouts of a marriage (as when a couple lived in different parishes banns were read in both).
But that's not the only reason why you might find Registers of Banns useful - they can also tell us about marriages that DIDN'T happen, and in some cases they also give the reason why. For example, in 1802 banns were read for the marriage of widower John Leswell to widow Hannah Moore - but only once, because Hannah changed her mind.
In 1800 banns were read for the marriage of Samuel Banyard to Priscilla Till, but as the register states "this Banns was stopt by his officer". Clearly Samuel was in the army, and required permission to marry - permission that was withheld. Priscilla was, no doubt, heartbroken - but it appears that she recovered quickly, for three years later she was walking down the aisle with one James Rogers.
Generally you'll need to visit the records office in person to inspect the banns registers, even on microfilm. However if you have Scottish ancestry it's worth noting that the pay-per-view Scotlandspeople site has images of some pre-1855 banns registers: you can see an example here.
In recent newsletters I've been writing about some of the more unusual things that you might find in parish registers, and I've been doing this with one aim in mind: to encourage more members to view parish register pages, rather than rely on transcriptions. You don't have to visit a records office to browse the registers - some registers are available online, for example Norfolk, part of Kent, and many early Essex registers - and microfilms of most registers are available through your local LDS Family History Centre.
By the way, you may recall my discovery in the 1730 burial register for St Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall of five people who had been killed in a riot. When I visited the Essex Records Office last week I was able to find out a little more from their newspaper archives - it transpired that the affray had begun a few miles away in Braintree, where weavers suspected that a shipment of yarn sent to Coggeshall had been imported from Ireland. Once a major source of silk, in the early 19th century Coggeshall became a centre for tambour lace, and my ancestor Jane was shown as a lacemaker or tambour worker in each of the censuses from 1841-71. Tambour comes from the same French origins as tambourine, and describes the frame on which the lace was made.
When I'm writing about parish registers, I am of course referring to Church of England registers, and whilst it is very unusual indeed to find the names of godparents in an Anglican baptism register, the reverse is true of Roman Catholic registers - as a number of members reminded me following my last article on parish registers.
I recently found an interesting article about parish registers on the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society website. Whilst it's headed up 'Family History for Beginners' there were quite a few things that I learnt from it, and you too might make pick up some useful tips.
In the second half of the 18th century the Archbishop of York promoted a more detailed style of register which gave far more information than normal for baptisms and burials. They were based on the ideas of Rev William Dade, and are usually found in Yorkshire parishes, though they are occasionally discovered in other counties. Unfortunately the introduction of a standard printed format after 1812 put an end to the use of Dade registers (and Barrington registers, used in the Diocese of Durham), although a few parishes ran the two systems in parallel for a while.
There's an interesting parallel between what the Rev Dade did, and Jill's suggestion in my first article, don't you think?
Another topic in last month's article on parish registers was the unofficial census carried out in 1796, by the vicar of Ardleigh in Essex. It turns out that he showed even more foresight than I had supposed - for he'd not only anticipated the censuses that began in 1801, but also the "Posse Comitatus" that was compiled in early 1798 under the Defence of the Realm Act. The "Posse Comitatus" has only survived for Buckinghamshire, and as far as I can tell the later "Levee en Masse" lists of 1803 and 1804 have not survived at all (see here for more information).
Whilst not a complete census, the "Posse Comitatus" could be very useful if you have Buckinghamshire connections, and is available on CD ROM through the Buckinghamshire Genealogy Society.
Did you know that there were to have been censuses in both Britain and Ireland in 1976, but that they were both cancelled? There's a copy of Barbara Castle's 1975 White Paper in the National Archives and you can download it free through Documents Online (follow this link and type "1976 census" in the Search box). The Ireland census was cancelled as a cost-saving measure, and I imagine the same applied in Britain, though it's interesting to note that the estimated cost was put at £14.6 million in a 1973 memorandum by the Central Policy Review Staff (also available through Documents Online), which - even allowing for inflation - is a lot less than the projected cost of the 2011 Census!
I'm still using the first family tree program I ever bought, and whenever I write about it I get emails from other satisfied users. Here's an email I received on Thursday:
I remember I found the link to the marvellous Genopro family tree program
through your recommendation and want to send it on to someone else, but
can't find the link on the website.
Please could you point me in the right direction. I know they could Google
it but I'd like you to get the benefit!
This was my reply:
Thanks for your email and your kindness. This link will get your friend a
10% discount and earn LostCousins a small commission:
All the best,
What I like about Genopro is its simplicity - and the complete flexibility it gives me over the layout of my tree. Of course, everyone wants something different from a family tree program, so my advice is to try it out first - you can download Genopro and evaluate it free for 14 days.
London Lives is a project that aims to make available information from the 18th century, with a particular emphasis on ordinary Londoners. Nearly a quarter of a million documents have been digitised and indexed, and there are over 3 million names in the index.
It's free to search, so if you have connections with London between 1690-1800 it's well worth seeing what you can find.
Another large tranche of 'Chelsea pensioner' records covering the period 1760-1854 is now available online at findmypast, where the collection now includes nearly 4 million colour images covering the period from 1760-1900. The term 'Chelsea pensioner' nowadays refers to in-pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but in former times it covered everyone who received an Army pension, because they were administered from Chelsea (ex-sailors receiving a pension from the Royal Navy were similarly known as 'Greenwich pensioners').
One of the newly-digitised records relates to my great-great-great-great uncle John Butwell, who was awarded a pension in 1847 on account of his poor health. The remaining records from WO97, covering 300,000 soldiers who were awarded pensions between 1901-13, should be online within a matter of weeks. You'll find background information about the records here.
From time to time I get emails from members asking whether the information on their My Ancestors could be sorted in some other way - usually it's because they want a quick way of checking whether a particular household has already been listed.
There are three ways that your My Ancestors page can be sorted, and to choose between them you simply click on the appropriate button - but personally I always choose the 'Household' sort, whether I'm looking at my own page or giving advice to another member. Not only are your entries sorted by household, they are sorted by census, and then in the order of the census references - which makes it very easy indeed to scan down the list and see whether you've already entered a particular household.
Did you know that you can display more detailed information about your relatives? If you click Show more detail you'll see maiden names and baptism dates on top of the standard data (but only, of course, if you've entered them!). And whether you're on this page or the standard screen you can view any notes you've entered simply by moving the mouse pointer over the paperclip symbol.
Should there be some reason why you'd like to sort the information in some other way, you can always copy it to a spreadsheet program, such as Excel - use 'paste as text' for the best results. You'll find more handy tips in my article 10 Tips and Tricks on the Help & Advice page.
The Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) is organising a petition to secure the early release of the 1926 Census, the first taken after the Irish state was founded. If you would like to support this petition - and I hope you will - please follow this link.
It's said that in life there are only two things that you can be certain of, death and taxes. For family historians the positive aspect is that in each case records are kept, and many of these records have survived for centuries.
Hearth taxes were levied in England & Wales from 1662-89 at the rate of 2 shillings per annum for each fireplace, hearth, or stove - and many of the records have survived, either at the National Archives or county record offices (some have even been published). In Scotland the timing was different - hearth taxes were levied from 1691-95 at the rate of 14 shillings per hearth. See the National Archives of Scotland site for more details.
One of the other taxes mentioned on the NAS site is the Farm Horse Tax - and member Fionnghal pointed out that the records are online at the official ScotlandsPlaces website. Best of all, it's free (no doubt paid for out of taxes!).
Whenever I visit a graveyard I know that the chances of finding any of my ancestors is minimal, because so many of the inscriptions have been worn away. There are a number of projects to records inscriptions and photograph gravestones, and I was very impressed when - on the recommendation of member Diane - I looked at the Gravestone Photographic Resource site.
There's also a wonderful free website where you can search for relatives who were interred at Toxteth Park Cemetery in Liverpool (thanks to David for introducing me to the site). Also I'm glad to say that the St Helens site I mentioned last November as having some problems is now fine, and there's a Hertfordshire site that Theresa has drawn to my attention.
You may also have come across Deceased Online, a pay-per-view site with about 750,000 records at present, but millions more on the way (according to their website); it's worth checking whether they cover any of the cemeteries and crematoria relevant to your research.
It was recently been reported that 1 in 36 of all £1 coins in circulation in Britain are counterfeit. Should you, therefore, carefully check your change? The problem is that there are so many different designs that it's not something you can do while you're at the till, or checkout, with people queuing behind - and if you only identify forgeries later, once you arrive home, then you are legally required to hand them in at a local bank, where they won't give you anything in exchange.
Of course, most of us can afford to lose the occasional pound. But what's rather more worrying is identity theft, and last week's posting on the Internet of personal details for 100 million Facebook users demonstrates the risks we are taking when we use online networking sites, whether they are social networking sites or family history sites like Ancestry and Genes Reunited.
For example, I was recently looking at the public tree of an Ancestry user. Quite rightly the information for living people was hidden - except that I was able to fill in all the gaps simply by combining the information that was shown with other publicly available information. It's ironic that some people will refuse to use their credit cards online because they imagine that it will in some way open them up to fraud, yet at the same time they'll freely publish information that will enable a fraudster to take out a new credit card or borrow money in their name.
When I designed LostCousins in 2004 I wanted to create a site where people could find their relatives quickly, easily, and securely - and I believe that I succeeded. The one problem is that I've only been able to attract 81,000 members to the site, whereas there must surely be at least half a million people who are seriously researching their British ancestry.
What surprises me is that most LostCousins members, including many of the most experienced members, have never used their My Referrals page to invite other researchers to join. Privacy and confidentiality was my key concern when I designed the referrals system for LostCousins - and that's why I don't allow members to upload their email address book. It's also why I've made it possible for you to refer somebody without giving me their email address (though even if you do I'll only use it once, to send the invitation on your behalf).
If you find this newsletter useful, and like the LostCousins concept, why not share it with other researchers?
Earlier this year, when my wife and I were staying with her brother in Germany, I used Google Street View to locate the building in Wales where their ancestors were living at the time of the 1861 Census, and where their great-grandmother was born. Then last month, when my wife and I were driving round Wales, we were able to find the building - once a small terraced cottage, now part of a pharmacy - and take some photographs of our own.
If you live too far away from where your ancestors lived to be able to visit, why not use Google Street View to see what you can find? True, you may discover that your ancestral home is now a supermarket, a car park, or a pharmacy, but at least you'll have tried - and if it is still standing, just think how exciting that will be!
This is where any updates or corrections will be posted.
That's it for now - I hope you've enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it!
Copyright 2010 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated