Newsletter - 30 August 2013
Free migration records ENDS MONDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 22
August 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.
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Ten years ago I imagined a world in which family historians who shared the same ancestors would be able to connect up without publishing their trees online for all to see.
It didn't take long to work out that this could only be achieved if there was a system for matching researchers automatically, so that neither needed to see the other's data - however the only automated matching systems in existence were highly inaccurate, because the data they depended on wasn't standardised. Two cousins could easily provide very different information for the same relative simply because they used different sources.
It took me several months of head-scratching and experimentation, but eventually I realised that there was a simple but highly effective solution - one that had been staring me in the face. The England & Wales 1881 census was available free online, which meant it was a source that anyone with an Internet connection could access - cousins would enter precisely the same data because they'd be using exactly the same source. And so, after many more months - spent designing, developing, and testing - LostCousins finally went live in May 2004.
Since then over 27,000 people have been matched with their living relatives, and about 10,000 of the relatives hadn't previously been in contact; about one-third of the 'lost cousins' live on different continents, which I find particularly amazing.
Out of all those matches just 23 have been notified to me as incorrect or possibly incorrect - and there wasn't a single instance of the matching system failing (in each case the erroneous match was the result of one of the members involved inadvertently identifying the wrong person on the census). That's as near to 100% accuracy as anyone could possibly hope for.
There is no other matching system that comes close, nor is there another website that has a more experienced membership (the average LostCousins member has been researching their family tree longer than I have).
I often get emails from people who've just discovered the LostCousins site suggesting that I change it so it works in exactly the same way as all the other sites they're familiar with.
Doh! If LostCousins did work in the same way as other sites then its unique combination of advantages - accuracy, automation, privacy and confidentiality - would be lost. It's a bit like suggesting to Vincent van Gogh that he should paint like everyone else - and yes, these 'suggestions' do sometimes make me feel like cutting off my ear!†††††††
The principle behind LostCousins may be unique but it isn't hard to understand. Each member provides a 'slice' of data from their tree which includes as many as possible of the relatives who were alive in 1881, and the matching system compares the data each member provides in order to identify the members who are related.
That's how it works - but why does it work? Think for a moment about your own tree - whichever line you look at it, there must have been someone on that line who was alive in 1881, otherwise you wouldn't even have been born. Naturally, the same applies to everyone else - we're all descended from people who were around in 1881 and who would (if they were living in Britain or Canada at the time, or in the US in 1880) have been recorded on the census.
Of course, in real life things aren't quite as simple as that - not every country has a surviving census from 1881 and people migrated - so there are some censuses from other years in the dropdown list on the Add an Ancestor form. However it's the 1881 Census that produces over 90% of all the matches that are made between LostCousins members, no matter where in the world they live, so it's the one that you should focus on if you haven't yet completed your My Ancestors page.
Tip: you can use the Family Tree Analyzer program - free to all LostCousins members - to identify the relatives on your tree who were alive in 1881. Family Tree Analyzer was written by a LostCousins member, and over the past three months it has been continually improved thanks to feedback from members of the LostCousins forum. Download the program here (unfortunately it only works on Windows PCs, not on Macs).
Free migration records ENDS MONDAY
Until 2nd September you can search many of Ancestry's migration records free of charge when you click here.
Tip: you can see a full list of the datasets that are included if you use the Old Search, but you can access the same records whichever search you normally use.
The Probate Service is for the first time making available the wills and last letters home of 280,000 soldiers who died in the Great War, including my great uncle Herbert. There is a charge of £6 to download a document, which is the same as the standard charge for a will. †
However, whilst the search works well, I couldn't complete a purchase - there seems to a problem with the payment system. This may, of course, have been fixed by the time you read this. (Now fixed - I received the will I ordered on Monday morning.)
Interestingly the home page suggests that soldiers' wills are available from 1860-1986, but my test searches didn't reveal any results prior to 1914, and there were only a few after 1918 (in 1919, 1920, and 1921). It seems likely, therefore, that there will be a wider range available in due course.
By the way, a couple of years ago a book of soldiers' last letters home was published under the title If You're Reading This.... which might be of interest to some of you, although I haven't read it myself. It covers the period from the Napoleonic Wars right up to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let's face it - in August most of us would prefer to be on the beach than stuck in front of our computer. At least, that's the argument I used in order to persuade findmypast to extend the validity of the Exclusive discount code that offers 10% of all new findmypast.co.uk subscriptions (and which was due to expire on 31st August).
Until the end of SEPTEMBER you can save 10% on any new subscription to findmypast.co.uk when you click here and use the code LCW10
But that's not all - you can also get a free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) AND a much-coveted invitation to join the new LostCousins forum before it opens officially (priceless - only 1% of members have been invited, so it really IS a privilege).
To make sure you qualify for the bonuses follow these simple steps (and read the small print at the bottom, in case it applies to you):
(1) Click here to go the findmypast website (it will open in a new tab or browser window), then either register or log-in. If you are already logged-in when you arrive at the website (perhaps because you've been checking out the latest data releases before subscribing) log-out, then start again by clicking the link at the beginning of this paragraph.
If you aren't taken to the Subscribe page automatically, click Subscribe in the top right hand corner.
Note: if the Promotional Code box isn't shown it's because you haven't logged in yet (there are two screens that look very similar).
(2) Enter the exclusive offer code LCW10 in the Promotional Code box, and click Apply to display the discounted offer prices:
(3) Choose the subscription that's best for you, bearing in mind that 12 month subscriptions offer by far the best value (because the second 6 months is virtually half price).
If you're only interested in British records (England, Scotland, and Wales) the Full subscription is by far the best choice - the Foundation subscription only offers basic records and is for absolute beginners (don't even consider it!). The wealth of additional datasets you get with a Full subscription are well worth the small additional cost, especially when you consider that a subscription to just one of them - the British Newspaper collection - would cost £79.95 if purchased separately.
(4) Before entering your credit card details make sure that the price shown is the discounted price!
If at any stage during the process you are logged out (this often happens to me while I'm looking for my credit card), or if your credit card isn't accepted for any reason, please start again at step (1) to ensure that you qualify for your free LostCousins subscription.
(5) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast forward a copy to me so that I can verify your entitlement (you won't find my email address on the website, but it is in the email I sent telling you about this newsletter). Your free LostCousins subscription will run for 6 or 12 months and can include your spouse or partner as well - just make sure that the two accounts are linked together before you write to me (all you need to do is enter the other person's membership number on your My Details page). If you already have a LostCousins subscription I'll extend it.
Small print: these offers cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts or backdated; if you are a current findmypast subscriber you will receive a 10% Loyalty Discount when your subscription is renewed automatically, so you won't qualify for either offer. However if you upgrade your findmypast subscription before the renewal date you should qualify for a free LostCousins subscription (provided you follow the instructions above). Free LostCousins subscriptions are funded by the commission we receive from findmypast, and that's why it's important you follow the instructions to the letter - if you have any questions ask me before you complete your purchase, because it will be too late afterwards!
I've now finished reading Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran, the biography of a between-the-wars domestic servant which I briefly mentioned in my last newsletter - it was fascinating, and remarkably close in many ways to the fictional below stairs tales of Downton Abbey (a new series of which will be shown †this autumn).
Mollie seems to have enjoyed her life below stairs, even though her working day would begin at 6.30am and she'd still be working at 9.30pm - I can't imagine many employees putting up with those hours nowadays (although it can be par for the course for those who run their own businesses). There are also some of Mollie's favourite recipes in the book, some of which are borrowed from Mrs Beaton, but I'm looking forward to trying out her cleaning tips (it's amazing what you can do with a lemon!).
John wrote to me this week to tell me a remarkable story from his own family tree - in the course of his research he discovered that his wife's grandmother Lily was a domestic servant in the Broadstairs household of his 2nd cousins 4 times removed! Do you have any similar coincidences in your own tree, I wonder?
Going back to Downton Abbey, I discovered recently that Michelle Dockery, the actress who plays Lady Mary, was born in Romford, Essex and went to the school right across the street from the house where I spent the first 8 years of my life! If only I'd been born 30 years later.....
Note: there's more about Michelle Dockery and the girls who played Lady Mary's sisters in this Daily Mail article from 2011.
If you read the story of William Cantelo in the last issue you may have been tempted, as I was, to do some research into his life.
I always take a sceptical approach towards tales like this because most family stories are embellished in some way, and my initial caution seemed justified when I noticed that the Wikipedia page for William Cantelo gave his birth year as 'about 1838', rather than the actual date of 1830. This was particularly intriguing because according to the story on the BBC website William Cantelo not only owned an engineering company, he was also the licensee of a public house. This seemed quite an unusual combination, as well as a bit of a handful for someone who supposedly was also working on the development of a machine gun.
On the censuses I found another William Cantelo who was running a pub in 1871 - and he was born in 1838. Could the stories of the two Williams have become merged into one? It certainly seemed likely - until I discovered that the younger William emigrated to New South Wales in 1877. However, Cantelo was a remarkably common name on the Isle of Wight, and some of the others Cantelos also had connections with firearms - searching the British Newspapers collection at findmypast I had discovered a William Cantelo who was a gunsmith (he died in 1862) and an Edward William Cantelo who sold gunpowder in his iremongery shop (he was fined for not renewing his licence).
Could I find verification that the William Cantelo who owned an engineering company also owned a pub? I decided to turn to Hampshire directories, which I found at Ancestry. There in White's 1878 directory I eventually found the proof:
It's worth mentioning at this point that Orchard Street was renamed Bargate Street not long afterwards, and also that the Tower Inn (or Old Tower Inn) was previously known as the Plumber's Arms.
In the 8th April 1885 edition of the Hampshire Advertiser it was recorded that the licence for the Plumber's Arms, Bargate-street had been transferred from William Cantelo to William Webb; a week later the same newspaper reported that William Cantelo had been sued by one of his employees, a mechanic named Joe Hebdon, for unpaid wages of 7s 11d (although Cantelo counter-claimed for 4s 8d in respect of work spoilt).
My guess is that William Cantelo over-extended himself, trying to run two businesses and simultaneously develop and market his inventions - and that as a result he ran out of money. By disappearing he would have evaded his creditors, and whilst his son John continued the engineering firm, in 1892 there was a further court case, this time involving the sum of £32 13s 5d (Hampshire Advertiser, 19th October), which hints at continued financial difficulties for the Cantelo family.
In the 1891 Census William's wife Eliza was lodging at 26 Anderson's Road, and 3 years later she was dead, at the age of 59. In the 1901 Census John Cantelo, who had taken over the family business, was no longer an employer - he was a worker.
It's likely that when William disappeared his wife didn't know the full story - I know of someone who disappeared in similar circumstances a century later, and his wife only found out what was going on when creditors came calling. For some weeks she didn't know whether her husband was dead or alive, so I can imagine it might have been the same for Eliza.
Who knows how she made sense of it all, and what she told her children? Despite the superficial resemblance William Cantelo and Hiram Maxim were two different people who just happened to be working on similar inventions. Maxim could take the credit for millions of deaths in the Great War; Cantelo left little behind but a mystery.
The Football Association will celebrate its 150th Anniversary this year with a special ceremony at Wembley Stadium - and they're inviting the descendants of the association's founders.
See this article on the FA website for more details. Thanks to Pam for telling me about this opportunity.
Lost Dambusters faces revealed
Just 3 of the 133 crew members who took part 70 years ago in Operation Chastise, the raid on dams in the Ruhr valley that was later immortalised in the film The Dam Busters, are still alive. 8 of the 19 planes that headed off to Germany were shot down, and 3 were forced to head back before reaching the target - but the 8 planes that did get through delivered their loads with precision.
This week, for the first time, photographs of all 133 were brought together - you can see them here on the BBC website. I'm willing to bet that there are several people reading this who are related to one of those brave airmen - do let me know.
Britain From Above has over 47,000 high resolution aerial images of Britain from 1919-53. You won't find every location, but I certainly found some photos of interest to me - it's a fascinating guide to how the landscape has changed (and how it might change again if building is permitted on 'green belt' land).
Have you downloaded Family Tree Analyzer?
Mel, who passed on the tip above also told me how useful he had found Family Tree Analyzer:
"Thanks again for the news about the Family Tree Analyzer program. I've been using it to highlight the names that I had not logged on your site and after adding three or four new households I've found some more contacts/cousins. I've still got a lot of names highlighted in red in the census reports that it shows for the more distant relatives in my trees so a lot more work still to do. No rest for the wicked!"
As I mentioned earlier, Family Tree Analyzer is a free download for all LostCousins members (although you'll need a Windows PC as it doesn't work on Macs). I'm not going to attempt to explain everything that it does - there's documentation on the download site - but a great way to get started is to use it to provide data for the Older Fathers project I'm running.
To take part in the project simply download Family Tree Analyzer and use it to analyse your own family tree - I need to know how many boys and how many girls were born to fathers of 55 or over (this information is given in the Parent Age report - just email me with the relevant numbers, not a copy of the whole report).
Just a reminder that whilst you won't find my email address online - for obvious reasons - it was in the email you received that told you about this newsletter. Indeed, you can use the address in any of the emails you have received from LostCousins, because all of the incoming mail comes to me.
Please don't send attachments unless I specifically ask you - I aim to keep all my correspondence, but I often have to delete emails with attachments in order to cut down the size of my backup files.
If you don't have my email address to hand you can also use the Contact Us form on the LostCousins website, but it's not ideal since the choice of subjects is limited. When I'm swamped with emails (as I always am after sending out a newsletter) the ones that get answered first are usually the ones with the most descriptive subjects.
Have you ever tried boxing with one hand tied behind your back? Or running with your bootlaces tied together? It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to handicap themselves in that way.
And yet, when I correspond with family historians I frequently come across people who have only ever used Ancestry, or only ever used findmypast - ignoring the fact that apart from the censuses and GRO indexes there's actually very little overlap between the records at the two sites.
There are probably at least half a dozen County record offices which are negotiating right now to put their parish registers online - but whilst they will speak to Ancestry and findmypast they'll end up doing a deal with one or the other, not both.
When I'm researching I might go from censuses and GRO indexes at findmypast to probate records at Ancestry, and then back to findmypast to look for newspaper articles - all in the space of 10 or 15 minutes. However I realise that most researchers can't afford to have subscriptions to both sites, which is why it's worth checking what's available at your local public library.
However, there's another resource you may not have considered - your cousins. If you're collaborating on a particular family line make the most of the resources you have between you - not just subscriptions, but CD ROMs, books, and microfiche. Working together you'll achieve more than either of you possibly could working alone.
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
I hope you found this letter interesting as well as useful!
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
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