Newsletter - August 26, 2009




National Archives row continues

Divorce gets even more expensive

1901 Census discoveries

Hidden problems at Ancestry

Capturing living memories

Is this the oldest person in a photograph? (Part 2)

Muggles to get Potter pics?

You'll find all sorts at LostCousins

Tips for advanced users

"Beware of vidders!"

19th century London revealed in more detail

New opportunity: Historical Research

The madness of George King

WWII memories published

Find those cousins NOW!

Peter's Tips

Have you tried….?

Stop Press


To visit the main LostCousins site please go to or click here for a password reminder.


If you missed the previous LostCousins newsletter (dated 8/8/09), or would like to see it again, click here.



There's now a petition on the Prime Minister's website to keep the National Archives at Kew open on Mondays - but so far just a handful of people have signed it (though it only takes 30 seconds). Are you prepared to stand up for genealogy and support the petition? You must be a British citizen or resident.


Petitions are a great way to demonstrate how strongly we feel about a particular topics, but sometimes a different approach is required. Dr Nick Barratt the renowned historian and broadcaster, and a former specialist reader adviser at the National Archives, is heading a campaign to persuade them to reconsider all of their proposals, which also involve making 35 staff redundant and allowing a further 30 or more vacant posts to remain unfilled. Visit the Action4Archives site for more details.



Madonna isn't the only one for whom a divorce turned out to be expensive - LostCousins member Pat wanted a copy of her relative's decree, and discovered that the charge is now a swingeing £60 for a divorce after 1858.


However, there is an alternative. Case files for almost all divorce suits between 1858-1927, and most from 1928-1937 are held at the National Archives in Kew, and you can search online by surname (specify the department code as J77). The search results often, though not always, include the names of co-respondents. See this guide for more information. Also see Stop Press for an update



I cut my teeth, genealogically-speaking, on the 1901 England & Wales Census - so I'm more than familiar with the transcription errors that challenged, confused, and exasperated a new generation of researchers back in 2002. When Ancestry produced their own version a couple of years later the transcription seemed better - or perhaps it was just that there was a different collection of errors.



Now there's a brand new transcription from along with newly-scanned high quality images - offering you a chance to find relatives who've been missing for over a century. Every ink smudge, every nuance of the enumerator's handwriting is revealed, making it easier to decipher - and this is reflected in the quality of the transcription. Of course, as with any transcription you'll still find the occasional error, usually due to an enumerator's appalling handwriting - but if you report a correction will put it right within 28 days (and usually much sooner).


Remember that it's free to search - only if you want to view a record do you need to buy credits or subscribe - so in many cases you'll be fairly certain that you've found the right person before making the decision to spend money. And remember, if you buy credits at they are also valid at the 1911 Census site.



John from Lincolnshire recently wrote in to point out a major problem with the 1881 Census at Ancestry - one that must have confused tens of thousands of users over the years.


If you search for someone born in either Lincolnshire or Herefordshire you're unlikely to get any results at all - because the county names have been recorded as Lincoln and Hereford respectively. Even if you type 'Lincoln' or 'Hereford' as the county of birth you still won't find the entries - because you have to input it under 'Parish or place'. Unless you know this, it can be really mystifying, and I'm sure that this bug alone accounts for many of the relatives thought to be missing from the 1881 Census. And even when you are aware of the problem, it's annoying when you're searching for someone born in the cities of Lincoln or Hereford - because you'll get the results for the entire county.


Here are two other problems that I've found myself - and the first is a real nuisance! Did you know that you can't search by age for someone who was less than 1 year old at the time of the census? If you type in 1880 as the year of birth (and leave the rest of the Search form blank) you'll get just 626,000 results for the whole of England - but they're all people who were at least 1 year old. Type in 1881 as the year of birth and you'll get just 174 results - about 640,000 less than you'd expect.

The last problem is relatively minor, but it still affects over 72,000 entries. Search for people living in Hammersmith in 1881 by typing in 'Hammersmith' as the civil parish and you'll get 0 results - not because nobody was living in that West London suburb, but because the name has been repeatedly misspelled as Harmmersmith. A mistake anyone could make, you might think - but for the fact that Ancestry's UK offices are in…… HAMMERSMITH!


In total these flaws affect around 5% of the 1881 England & Wales Census entries - so must have affected a great many LostCousins members. Each one of them is absolutely mystifying until you know about it, and if you'd given up in your search, nobody could have blamed you. Note: none of these problems seems to affect either FamilySearch or, even though they use the same transcription.



Last autumn I met Peggy, my 2nd cousin once removed, for the first and - as it turned out - last time. Since the early 90s we'd been living just 20 miles apart without either knowing of the other's existence, and I'm so glad that when we eventually met I used my camcorder to capture Peggy talking about her childhood, and recalling other memories from her early life.


This week LostCousins member Jennie was telling me how she had recently met, also for the very first time, her 2nd cousin's widow and that - though 87 years old - she'd taken the initiative and bought herself a dictating machine so that she could continue to record memories as they came to mind. Jennie also told me how grateful she was that she had recorded her mother on audiotape in 1981. When her mother passed away in 1997 Jennie sent copies to her relatives on that side of the family, as she had been well loved by them all - and they were absolutely delighted.


When you can buy second-hand camcorders on eBay for less than £50, and new ones for little over £100, there's no reason not to record your relatives - or yourself for that matter!



In my last newsletter I mentioned how the 2 million readers of the Daily Telegraph had been searching for the oldest person captured in a photograph, and wondered whether the 50,000 recipients of this newsletter could beat the record set by the Telegraph readers, then standing at 1775. My own meagre contribution was a picture of my 2G grandfather who was born in 1815, but I was convinced that you would be able to do better - and I was right! 

LostCousins members always rise to a challenge, and this was no exception. The first email I opened was from Phil, whose great-great-great grandfather John Barker (right) was born in 1778 and lived until 1861.


Valerie sent me a photo of her great-great-great grandmother (left), a midwife in North Wales and, I understand, something of a local celebrity in Barmouth, who was born in 1780 and lived until 1871 - what an imposing figure she makes!


Although far from being one of the oldest photos, there was wonderful story to accompany this picture (right) which came from Thomas Loach (1803-1867)Rosalind and shows her great-great grandfather Thomas Loach. Baptised in Birmingham in 1803, he worked as a whitesmith and blacksmith before become a weighing machine maker for the well-known firm of W & T Avery, which still survives today as Avery Weigh-Tronix. The photograph was in a locket given to Rosalind by  her grandmother, who only knew him to be "some relative or other", even though the locket was inscribed In memory of Thomas LOACH died Oct 7th 1867 in his 64th year - because her grandfather had died 16 years before she was born. Also in the locket was a lock of Thomas's hair!


Lauretta told me about her great-aunt Edith Hall who was photographed for the first time in 1868, and then again on her 100th birthday in 1968 (on the latter occasion she was accompanied by Sir John Barbirolli, as she was a great supporter of the Halle Orchestra).

Annie Stupart (1768-1858)

But this photo on the left from Barbara in Bermuda is the outright winner - her great-great-great grandmother was born Annie Stupart in Clackmannan, Scotland as long ago as 1768.


In 1789, the year of the French revolution, she married a teacher by the name of William Wylie in Dundee, and though he died in 1827 - before the advent of portrait photography - she lived until the age of 90. It's likely that this photograph was taken in the years leading up to her death in 1858.


Once again, LostCousins members have demonstrated their resourcefulness - we've beaten the 2 million readers of the Daily Telegraph by an amazing SEVEN years! Thanks to everyone who sent in photos - I only wish it had been possible to include all of them.



If you're a Harry Potter fan, you'll know about the portraits and newspaper photos that seem to come to life. Next month some issues of the US magazine Entertainment Weekly will have a full colour video advert that starts animating when you turn the page. Perhaps in a few years' time we won't have photo albums, but video albums?



In response to popular request, I've made some changes in the way that you can sort the entries on your My Ancestors page. The Household sort (which sorts according to census page) hasn't changed - but the other two sorts have become more useful. When you choose the Name sort all of your entries will now be shown in a single list ordered by name; the Age sort has been replaced by the Type sort, which sorts your entries according to the relationship (and then by name).


I hope these changes will make it easier to check for errors and omissions (see also the second tip below).



I was asked recently whether if a relative appears on both the 1841 and 1881 Censuses they can be entered twice. Your My Ancestors page isn't a family tree - it's a list of census entries - and not only can you enter someone twice if they are recorded on two censuses, I'd recommend that you do. Indeed, even when somebody is recorded twice on the SAME census (which does sometimes happen) you should enter them twice.


You've probably visited your My Ancestors page so often that you don't notice some of the buttons and options; I mentioned the changes in the Sort options above, but here's something you may have missed.







Hidden away in the top right-hand corner of your My Ancestors page are two buttons, Help and More detail. I'm sure you can figure out what clicking Help does, but I'm willing to bet that 90% of the members reading this newsletter have never clicked More detail, which brings up a table of your relatives that includes additional columns - one for maiden names and another for baptism dates. It's ideal if you want to copy your data into a spreadsheet and sort it in some way that we haven't thought of - but it also makes it easy to spot maiden names that are missing. If you're logged-in to your LostCousins account click here to see what I'm talking about.



This 1907 article from the New York Times offers an unusual insight into the lives of the London poor. The title is a paraphrase of Mr Weller's advice in Pickwick Papers "Take example by your father, my boy, and be very careful of vidders all your life….".



In the last issue I mentioned that Charles Booth's map of London poverty can be found in the LSE archives. LostCousins member Chris wrote in to say that the online map is a lot easier to use if you have DjVu (which you probably will if you're a user, as it's the software they use for displaying enhanced images).


He also pointed that in the same collection you'll find digitised images of the police notebooks that Charles Booth used to record what he found as he walked round with members of the constabulary, and the Stepney Union casebooks, with case histories compiled in 1889-90 of some of the inmates of the Bromley-by-Bow and Stepney workhouses and also individuals who received 'outdoor relief'.


The casebooks provide a fascinating insight into East End life, and if you - or someone you know - would like a challenge, this would be a great application for the new Historical Research feature. Contact me if you're interested - it might be suitable for a small group.



The primary objective of LostCousins is to link members who are related - yet as we strive to find out more about our ancestors and their lives we may be missing out on sources that aren't available online, and perhaps not even in public archives. That's why last year we introduced a whole range of new categories, to enable you to link up with people who share your research interests, even though they don't share your ancestors - including Neighbours, Employment, One-Name Studies, and One-Place Studies.


I'm pleased to announce that we are extending the range further by adding the Historical Research category. This allows historians who are researching unrelated individuals or families who lived in the late 18th century or the 19th century to search for living descendants. The other side of the coin, and the one relevant to most people who are reading this article, is the opportunity to find out more about your relatives, and perhaps get a different perspective on who they were and how they lived. You don't need to do anything extra - simply complete your My Ancestors page as normal.


DON'T USE the Historical Research feature if you're simply researching the family tree of someone you know (whether you are being paid for doing it or not); in that situation the most appropriate solution is to open a LostCousins account on behalf of your client. Similarly, if you're researching everyone who lived in a particular locality, or everyone who bore a particular surname, you'd be better off using the One-Place Study or One-Name Study category.


DO USE the Historical Research feature where there is no more appropriate category: for example, you might be writing an historical biography, or a book about a group of 19th century political activists.


There's a document on the website that explains how to use the Historical Research feature, but please get in touch with me first, so that I can advise you if there is a better solution.



LostCousins member Ian Hudson has written a biography of his father which includes a graphic account of what it was like fighting in Europe and Africa between 1939-45. It costs £7.50 to download in PDF format, and all proceeds will go The Gurkha Welfare Trust.



Some of the most difficult relatives to trace on the census are the ones who were inmates in lunatic asylums. In 1861 inmates were recorded only by their initials so, for example, George King would have been shown as G.K.


But institutions of all kinds can cause problems for researchers. Whilst an entire family might end up in the workhouse, the men would live separately from their wives and children, and even though you might find members of the same family listed together, relationships between the inmates are not recorded - so you can't be absolutely certain. The quality of the information entered can also vary - birthplaces in particular are often shown incorrectly.


The inhabitants of larger institutions tend to be recorded on special returns; smaller institutions are found amongst the regular household returns. The cut-off point was 200 inmates between 1851 and 1881, but in 1891 the threshold was lowered to 100. Whichever type of return was used, you'll usually find it necessary to go back to the first page to find out the full details of the institution.



Last time I showed you how to take information from the 1881 Census at and enter it on your My Ancestors page. However, there are three sites where you can search the 1881 England & Wales census free of charge, and this time I'm going to show you where to find the information at (I'll use the same household for the example).


Entering information about your relatives who were recorded on the 1881 Census may sound like a chore, but it's actually very quick and easy. I'm sure you've already found most of your relatives on the census, so now all you need to do now is enter them on your My Ancestors page.


Sounds easy - and it is! Just enter the name and age of each relative as shown in the census, plus (for the first person in each household only) the references that specify the precise census page - whichever site you use they're shown as part of the transcription. For example, on the right you'll see what Ancestry shows for my great-grandfather John Calver and his family.


As with there's no need to subscribe to access the 1881 Census transcript at Ancestry - only if you want to see the handwritten census schedule do you need to be a subscriber.


Note: in the Search results at Ancestry there are two links for each result, and first time users often click the wrong link: the links in the first column of the results will take you to the transcription (which for the 1881 England & Wales census is free), but those in the final column lead to the handwritten schedule (which requires a subscription).


Sometimes you'll see corrections to the transcription provided by users of the site; you should ignore these and enter the original data, otherwise we can't match your entries with those made by cousins who used a different website (or who looked up the Ancestry entry prior to the alteration). The all-important census references (which identify the precise census page) can be found lower down under the heading Source Citation:




As you can see, the census references are neatly labelled - not difficult to find at all - and remember, you only have to enter them once for each household. Now let's see how easy it is to enter the information on your My Ancestors page - here's a screenshot that shows me entering my great-grandfather John Calver:


That wasn't hard, was it? And when I entered the rest of the household all the boxes down as far as the surname were already filled in, so it took just a few seconds for each.


Should you experience any difficulty finding your relatives on the census then I'd recommend an article I've written called "Key Tips for Census Success", which you'll find on the Help & Advice page at the LostCousins site. The most important tips are listed on the first page of the article - and if that doesn't solve your problem you can always ask for my help.



In the last newsletter I wrote about Attendance Allowance, which is an important supplement for those who can no longer look after all their personal needs, and depend on help from others. What I didn't realise at the time is that there are plans to abolish Attendance Allowance (and possibly Disability Living Allowance too).  If you or people you know rely on these important allowances I'd urge you to read what the Government appear to be planning. Many thanks to member Carol for bringing this to my attention.


If someone you love can no longer cope in their own home, then - like me - you might be apprehensive about the possibility of finding them a place in a care home. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Care Quality Commission, a government body with a website that gives ratings and publishes independent reports on care homes and also domestic care providers.


Earlier this month I mentioned the Vodafone TopUp and Go Mobile USB modem, which is incredibly affordable if, like me, you only want to pick up email and surf the Internet - rather than download videos and MP3s. I'm still on target to get over a year's worth of mobile surfing from the £15 credit that came free with the £29.99 dongle - to view this newsletter would cost a mere fraction of a penny!


I use an Asus EeePC 901 when I'm out and about, but the lightweight laptop I wish I had is the Samsung N110 netbook, which has a bigger screen, a better keyboard, more storage space, and a longer battery life. Until the end of August the N110 is available from Dixons for just £319.99 when you enter the code 10N110 (and delivery is free, so that's all you'll pay). It weighs just 1.26Kg - that's  about 2lb 12 oz in old money - and has an amazing 9 hour battery life! When I last checked the average customer review score was 9/10 which is pretty astounding, and the verdict of Pc Pro magazine was "Superb build quality, battery life and usability - quite simply the best netbook around" (and that was when the price was £350).


Standard membership is always free, but the LostCousins site will be totally free from now until the end of August, which means that every member has the same privileges as those who have paid an annual subscription. It's a great opportunity to find more cousins, and this means that now is the ideal time to bring your My Ancestors page up to date. Think you've done it already? Remember that it's not your direct ancestors who were on the 1881 Census who are most likely to lead us to your 'lost cousins' - it's their brothers, sisters, and cousins - especially the ones who by 1881 had families of their own.


Note: while LostCousins will be free, other sites will be charging as usual, even some of the sites that are mentioned in this newsletter.



This may be the last article, but it's also the first. The first, that is, in a new series in which I'm going to feature unusual ways to search for information about your family tree.


I'm going to start off the series with a site that's probably familiar to everyone that's reading this - and yet one that you may never have considered. We've all used Google to research your family tree, but have you tried Amazon? Type one of the more unusual surnames in your tree into the Search box, select 'Books', and click 'Go'.


I don't know what you'll find, but I discovered a previously unknown biography of my first cousin twice removed - and though it has been out of print for over 30 years, Amazon has second-hand copies for sale (one of which should be arriving through my letterbox soon).


There are, of course, many other sites that sell old books - but Amazon is the best place to carry out the initial search. Try it for yourself - like me you may discover a book about one of your relatives, but you may also discover a book by one of your relatives.



I've heard from several members that copies of divorce case files can be obtained from the National Archives very cheaply - little more than the cost of photocopying and postage. Let's hope the budget cuts don't put a stop to this!


That's all for now - I hope you've found some of it relevant to you and your family tree. Please do keep sending in your comments and suggestions for future issues.

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


Copyright 2009 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated