Newsletter - 19 December 2012


Findmypast Christmas offer EXCLUSIVE

Find a cousin for Christmas!

We all have hundreds of DNA flaws

Pre-1837 birth certificates

Radio Times from 1923-2009 digitised

London bomb map goes online

Wartime posters

World War 2 Christmas cards delivered after 70 years

Deeds Registries

Somerset parish records

Ancestry launch US newspaper site

More army pension records online

Choosing a World subscription

Kate's family tree controversy

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 28 November 2012) please click here; for an index to articles from 2009-10 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.


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!



Findmypast Christmas offer

I'm delighted to say that I've been able to persuade findmypast to offer LostCousins members an exclusive discount on all of their UK subscriptions! From now until the end of the December you can save 10% on ANY subscription at when you click here and enter the offer code LCXMAS in the promotional code box at the left hand side of the Subscribe page (you could save as much as £16 on a 12 month World subscription).


Tip: if you want to share this offer with other researchers, don't simply pass on the code. Instead, please send them a link to this newsletter - that way they might be inspired to link up with their own 'lost cousins'.


As this is the season of goodwill I'm going to add an extra present of my own: a LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 - which means your total savings could be as much as £28.50! Follow the instructions carefully to make sure that you qualify:


(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 have registered previously). If you aren't taken to the Subscribe page automatically, click Subscribe in the top right hand corner.


(2) Enter the exclusive offer code LCXMAS 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 almost half price).


The new World subscription includes Ireland, Australia & New Zealand, and the USA (click on the country name to see precisely which records are included).


If you're only interested in British records then I'd strongly recommend the Full subscription rather than the Foundation subscription, which only offers basic records and is therefore most suitable for beginners. 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 newspaper collection - would cost £79.95 if purchased separately.


(4) If during the process you are logged out for any reason, or if your credit card isn't accepted, start again at step (1) to ensure that you qualify for your free LostCousins subscription.


(5) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast please 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 (the Subscribe page at the LostCousins site explains how to do this). If you already have a LostCousins subscription I'll extend it.


Note: these offers cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts or backdated; if you are a current findmypast subscriber you will automatically receive a 10% Loyalty Discount when you renew or upgrade your subscription.


Find a cousin for Christmas!

Christmas is all about families - so what better time to find a new cousin?


From now until the end of December the LostCousins site will be completely FREE - which means that you can make contact with the members you're matched with through your My Ancestors page even if you're not a subscriber.


Whilst there are other sites where you can link up with people researching the same ancestors, none of them are as accurate as LostCousins, nor do they offer the same degree of privacy. Equally important, no other site has such an experienced membership - the average LostCousins member has been researching longer than I have - so the contacts you make through LostCousins are likely to prove much more productive.


And if you've used other sites, you'll also know that people often don't respond - and yet it's never clear why (have they changed their email address, are they being rude, have they passed away?). Because I know from personal experience how frustrating that can be I'll do my very best to make sure that you do get a reply, even if your cousin has forgotten to tell me about their new email address.


There are three simple rules to finding 'lost cousins':


(1) Enter relatives from all your family lines, not just the ones you're currently investigating.


(2) Focus on the 1881 Census - it's the only one we've used since LostCousins began over 8 years ago, and it's the only one that's free online (which is why I chose it in the first place). So it's the census that your cousins are most likely to have used.


(3) Although it makes sense to start by entering your direct ancestors and their households, it's when you enter their extended families - especially the brothers, sisters, and cousin who had families of their own in 1881 - that you're most likely to make new contacts.


Tip: once you're connected with a 'lost cousin' you'll stay connected so long as you remain a member, whether or not you are a subscriber - I don't believe in making it difficult for people to stay in touch.


We all have hundreds of DNA flaws

Everyone knows that we all have slightly different DNA, just as we have different fingerprints, but recent research reported on the BBC website has shown that the average healthy person has about 400 potentially damaging DNA variations, including two known to be associated with disease.


Mind you, if it wasn't for mutations like these we'd still swinging through the trees and eating bananas - then again, I did have a banana for lunch today....


Whilst on the subject of mutations, a study carried out in Iceland by deCODE Genetics has shown that the older a father is, the more mutations he passes to his children. Whereas mothers passed on an average of 14 mutations regardless of age, 20 year-old fathers passed on an average of 29 mutations, 30 year-olds passed on 49, and 40 year-olds passed on 69. It has been estimated that about 10% of mutations are damaging so there's certainly an advantage in being the first born child!


Note: a week ago it was announced that deCODE Genetics has been bought by a big US pharmaceutical company - it will be interesting to see what impact this has.


Finally, some other recent research has found that symmetrical features are an indicator of good health, and whilst the study worked with monkeys it seems likely that it will also apply to humans. It's long been said that we find people with symmetrical faces more attractive, so this latest finding isn't too much of a surprise.


Pre-1837 birth certificates

Civil registration in England & Wales began in 1837, so you can't get a birth certificate for someone born before 1837..... or can you?


Sylvia recently sent me copies of birth certificates she had obtained from the General Register Office in respect of relatives who were born between 1801 and 1815. How did she manage this? The father of the children was in the Army, and Army records survive from as early as 1761.


If you've never seen one of these certificates now's your chance!




At findmypast you'll find the following indexes:


Armed Forces births from 1761-2005

Armed Forces marriages from 1796-2005

Armed forces deaths from 1796-2005

British nationals born overseas from 1818-2005

British nationals married overseas from 1818-2005

British nationals died overseas 1818-2005

British nationals born at sea 1854-1887

British nationals married at sea 1854-1908

British nationals died at sea 1854-1890

Maritime births 1867-1960

Maritime marriages 1854-1972

Maritime deaths 1794-1964


It's easy to forget about records like these - whilst writing this article I came across three relatives I didn't know about (their father was in the army between 1821-47). I wonder who you'll find?


Note: you'll find a list of the more obscure birth, marriage and death indexes (including births and deaths on British-registered hovercraft from 1972 onwards) in this PDF document at the DirectGov site.


Radio Times from 1923-2009 digitised

A few years ago I commented in this newsletter how useful it would be to be able to find out what radio and television programmes were being broadcast at various times in the past - for example, I could remember that I was watching TV when the news about Kennedy's assassination started to come through, but I wasn't sure what I was watching.


Anyone who has interviewed older relatives will know how little items of information can spark further memories, so I was delighted to learn that the BBC has digitised thousands of copies of the Radio Times from the first issue in 1923 up to 2009 (you'll find the article here). Unfortunately the archive isn't being made available to the public at this point in time - it's only accessible by BBC staff - but the public may gain access in late 2013.


Perhaps at that time I'll feel able to throw away the hundreds of copies of the Radio Times that I've collected over the past few years? My wife would be absolutely delighted!


London bomb map goes online

When I was younger London was dotted with bomb sites, so I was very interested to discover the Bomb Sight project which shows where bombs fell during the Blitz (7th September 1940 to 11th May 1941). What I hadn't realised was how many bombs fell in the outer suburbs - there was one just over the road from the house where I grew up, and at least 20 more within a half mile radius. It's perhaps not surprising that over 1.4 million people were made homeless by the blasts (and at least 20,000 lost their lives).


If you've got an iPad you might find the free MapMatcher App useful - it allows you to see up to 4 London maps simultaneously (there are also versions for a number of US cities) so you might, for example view a modern map alongside maps from 1807 and 1901. As you move across one map the other maps move in synch, so you can see where streets that no longer exist are in relation to modern landmarks.


But my favourite London map is my facsimile copy of the 1938 A-Z, which also includes an index of streets whose names changed in the preceding decades. You can order it direct from the publishers here, but it's also available from Amazon.


Wartime posters

If you're looking for an unusual Christmas gift, Fit Men Wanted: Original Posters from the Home Front is a book of 62 posters selected from the Imperial War museum collection of over 30,000 pieces of artwork that might fill the bill.


Coincidentally, wartime artwork held by the National Archives is being made available online at the Wikimedia site. So far there are 364 images, but it is hoped that the entire collection of almost 2,000 images will be online one day.


World War 2 Christmas cards delivered after 70 years

During the Second World War the Channel Islands were occupied by German forces, and as Christmas 1941 approached a group of Jersey teenagers broke into a German army post office. Now, after more than 70 years the letters and cards are at last being delivered to their intended recipients - or rather, their descendants.


See this BBC news article for more information.


Deeds Registries

When I my wife and I bought our house in 1997 it needed to be registered for the first time at the Land Registry - it's only relatively recently that it has been compulsory for all property to be registered, and still about a quarter of the land in England isn't registered (because it hasn't changed hands since registration became compulsory).


However, 300 years ago several county registries were set up where property owners could register their deeds - you'll find 4 of them listed here on the Land Registry website. Referring to Nick Barratt's Tracing the History of Your House I noticed that he mentions a fifth registry, Bedford Levels, whose records are held by the Cambridgeshire Record Office.


This document at the London Metropolitan Archives provides further background. Property records can be a handy way of tracking our ancestors' movements, and whilst many of our ancestors won't have been property owners, some records (including the 1910-1915 Valuation Office survey) give the names of tenants.


Somerset parish records

Chris wrote to let me know about a website that lists all the parishes in Somerset, and identifies where online transcriptions are available - I only wish that something similar existed for every county.


The Somerset site was set up by another LostCousins member, Ian Sage, and you'll find it here.


Ancestry launch US newspaper site is a new site from Ancestry that offers 27 million pages from US newspapers from the late 18th century to the early 21st century.


The good news is that there's a 7-day free trial. The bad news is that you'll have to provide your credit card details, and if you don't cancel before the end of the trial you will be billed $79.95 for a one year subscription. My trial runs out on Christmas Day, so I'm bound to forget if I leave it to the last minute (feel free to send me a reminder on Christmas Eve!).


I did manage to find a report of the death of a distant cousin in 1915, but the images were slow to load and I wasn't always sure what was happening. Still, some teething problems are inevitable with a site like this - not so long ago I was complaining about problems accessing British newspapers at findmypast, and those problems have now been fixed.


More army pensioner records online

Findmypast have added tens of thousands of new records for army pensioners, including over 19,000 that were held by the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in Dublin. Those records are held under WO 119 at the National Archives; other records added at the same time are from WO 121, WO 122, WO 128 and WO 131, most of which relate to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.


Choosing a World subscription

Both Ancestry and findmypast have sites around the world, so the obvious thing to do is subscribe to your local site. But just because something is 'obvious' doesn't necessarily make it the best option....


For example, Ancestry offer a World subscription at all of their sites, and no matter which site you subscribe to you can log-in at any of the Ancestry sites and access the same records. However there's a big difference between the price that Ancestry charge for their World subscription, and if you choose the wrong site you can end up paying more than twice as much. See this article from my October newsletter in which I demonstrate how much you can save by choosing the cheapest option.


In some cases you might be able to get a World subscription for less than you're currently paying for a lower level subscription - for example, Betty in New Zealand wrote today to say that, as a result of following the advice in my article, she now has a World subscription that is cheaper than the UK Heritage Plus subscription she had previously.


When it comes to findmypast the equation is completely different - although all of the sites now offer a World subscription the coverage differs from site to site, and a subscription for one site won't allow to log-in at all the others.


This is really important, because the enormous British newspaper collection (over 5 million pages) is currently only available through the UK site, and I understand that about 15% of the other records at the UK site have yet to be added to the Irish, Australian, and US sites.


I don't know how long this situation will persist, but right now the best option for someone with British or mainly British ancestry is to subscribe through the UK site, even if it costs a few pounds more - not just because you'll have many more records available to you, but also because it is much, much easier to search British records there.


Kate's family tree controversy

The Daily Telegraph recently claimed of the Duchess of Cambridge:


"New research has revealed that she is related to one of Britainís grandest families and can count a prime minister, earls and countesses among her kin. The news has been welcomed by the Duchess, who was informed of her aristocratic heritage during the first few weeks of her pregnancy."


In fact, as LostCousins member Roger pointed out, the connection only exists because of the 1917 marriage of Kate's 2nd cousin 3 times removed - there is no "aristocratic heritage". You can see all this for yourself if you look at the family tree that accompanies the article.


If there's one positive thing to take away from this sloppy piece of journalism, it's the way it unwittingly illustrates how important it is to differentiate on your My Ancestors page between blood relatives and those who are only related by marriage. Your blood relatives are the ones with whom you share a common ancestor; nowadays we might think of them as people who share our genes, but in earlier times people would have talked about bloodlines.


Mind you, if you're connected with someone who's only related to you by marriage it doesn't rule out the possibility that you'll be able to exchange useful information because, while the two of you are not cousins, the offspring of the marriage that links you are cousins to both of you - therefore someone who isn't your cousin might well be in a position to put you in touch with someone who is.


At LostCousins you can tell even before you make contact with another member whether or not you are cousins simply by reviewing at the My Details page for the relationship (to display the My Details page go to your My Cousins page and click on the other person's name or initials).


Note: this isn't the first controversy regarding the Middleton family tree - in the June edition of the Genealogist's Magazine (the journal of the Society of Genealogists) the renowned genealogist Anthony Adolph convincingly demonstrated that the supposed royal links through the Fairfax line were mistaken; in that case the error originated in a pedigree compiled in the 17th century.


Peter's Tips

Did you know that grapefruit can be life-threatening? According to a BBC news article researchers have identified over 40 prescription drugs that can be adversely affected by grapefruit, including some taken for common conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or coronary heart disease. See this page on the NHS website for more information.


Talking of high blood pressure, I almost exploded after receiving a hoax phone call from a woman pretending to need urgent counselling (my wife is a psychotherapist in private practice). The tears at the other end of the phone and the talk of suicide were so worrying that I almost interrupted my wife - who was in the middle of a session with another patient - so that she could speak to the woman herself. It was only when I was given an obviously fake name that I realised I was being conned. (Of course, by that time I'd given away some key pieces of information about my wife's business - which was probably what they were after the whole time.)


Hoax phone calls are never pleasant, and given the tragic consequences in one recent and highly publicised case I had no hesitation whatsoever in reporting this matter to the police through the new ActionFraud website, which hopefully will make it easier to stamp down on scams of all kinds.


When I published my last newsletter I mentioned in the covering email I was suffering from a very bad cold - and it took me quite a while to shake it off. I haven't had such a bad sore throat since I had my tonsils out 56 years ago, and it didn't help that a few days earlier I'd looked at the death certificate for my great-great-great grandfather, George Wells, who died in 1841 of a "putrid sore throat" (thankfully he survived until the census of that year).


But one thing that did help to take my mind off my predicament was reading To the Grave, the second genealogical crime mystery from Steve Robinson - and I have to agree with the reviewers who reckon it was even better than his first book In the Blood (the Kindle version of which is currently available for just 77p at


The really good news for anyone who, like me, is hooked on these stories is the release of the third book in the series, The Last Queen of England, which costs just £2.49 for the Kindle version (the paperback edition won't be out until March). All 14 of the reviewers who have posted their thoughts on Amazon so far have given it 5 stars, so I can't wait to read it (though I'm going to have to, unfortunately).


By the way, if you missed my exclusive interview with Steve Robinson, you'll find it here. And if you don't live in the UK you can buy his books from by following this link.


I don't often write about software for Macintosh computers - primarily because I don't own one, so can't test the programs out - but when Isabelle wrote to tell me about the bargain she found I knew that I had to pass the tip on to members. Isabelle bought an old edition of Family Tree Maker for just £11.85 which came with a free 6 month Premium subscription to (worth over £50). At that price you can afford to put the software in the bin (although you will need to install it to claim your free subscription). Click here to find out whether Amazon still have stock at that bargain price.


I don't normally watch online videos - life's too short - but an old friend of mine in California sent me this link to a 25 minute tour of the International Space Station - I thought it was amazing, and I hope you like it too.


Finally, if you've written to me recently but haven't received a reply there's a good reason - I was using a new laptop which came with Norton Internet Security, and it seems that some of the emails I sent didn't get through. (Please drop me an email if you've written to me since my last newsletter and haven't received my reply - I've no way of knowing which emails reached their intended recipient, and which ones didn't.)


That wasn't the only problem I experienced with Norton - sometimes I couldn't download incoming emails either. I've now uninstalled Norton and installed Kaspersky Internet Security instead. I have been using Kaspersky for many years and have never had any problems at all - so I wasn't surprised to see that a review of antivirus programs in the latest edition of Computer Shopper rated it the best.


What might surprise you, however, is that if you buy an old version of the program you get a free update to the latest version. For example, if you install the 2012 edition (which currently costs just £17.95 at Amazon for the 3 PC version) you'll automatically be updated to the 2013 edition (which costs about £10 more).


Stop Press

This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.


I hope you've found this newsletter interesting. As ever, several of the articles were inspired by members, so do please keep writing in with your tips, comments, and questions.


All that remains now is for me to wish you a Very Merry Christmas - and express my hope that you'll do your utmost to link up with your 'lost cousins' over the festive period!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver


You may link to this newsletter, and I have included bookmarks so you can - if you wish - link to a specific article (right-click on the relevant entry in the table of contents at the beginning of the newsletter to copy the link). However, please email me first if you would like to re-publish any part of the newsletter on your own website or in any other format.