Newsletter Ė 17th December 2013



A personal note

Save 15% on subscriptions ENDS SOON

"This is London calling...."

Home Office minister hints at GRO changes?

Adoption law to change - thanks to LostCousins member

A child is born

Book review: Hiding the Past

Rate books go online at findmypast

Surrey and West Yorkshire Electoral Registers at Ancestry

Norfolk Register of Electors at FamilySearch

Victorian household hazards

Wartime memories

Roman scrolls outlast 1931 Census

How much do we really know about the census?

Save on WDYTYA tickets with Ancestry

Jamaican genealogy site is now completely free

Last chance to save on DNA tests

Can your actions affect your descendants' behaviour?

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 23 November 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.

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A personal note

You may be wondering why it is a month since my last newsletter - I usually aim to publish them at fortnightly intervals. But this year fate intervened.....


Each year my wife and I save up our Tesco points with a view to getting some winter sunshine in early December - it's our main holiday of the year. Unfortunately tropical countries tend to harbour diseases that are unknown in more temperate climes, and I managed to contract dengue fever, probably as a result of a mosquito bite.


The good news is that I'm around to write this - dengue fever can be fatal. The bad news is that I still have very low blood pressure and cold sweats at night, and feel very lethargic - so I won't be nearly as active as I would normally have been over the next few weeks.


It's awful timing, not just because it's Christmas, but also because I'd been hoping to boost the LostCousins membership from 94,000 to 100,000 in time for our 10th Birthday on 1st May. Clearly there's not much that I can do on at that front right now, but perhaps you can help? After all, if everyone reading this newsletter could encourage just one other researcher to join we'd reach the target very quickly!


To play your part just download the A4 leaflet that you'll find here - you can use it as a small poster, or as a handout. Thank you!


Note: apologies if any emails you have received from me recently have seemed terse - now you know why!



Save 15% on subscriptions ENDS SOON

You've got until Monday 6th January to save 15% on a new subscription to and get a free LostCousins subscription (total saving up to £36.49). All the information you need was here in my last newsletter - please make sure you follow the instructions carefully!


Tip: whilst you can access many of findmypast's British records with a World subscription at one of findmypast's international sites, only has all of the British records, and only allows you to carry out some of the most powerful searches. Don't subscribe to the wrong site!


"This is London calling...."

During World War 2 the announcers on the BBC World Service would begin news broadcasts with the words "This is London calling".


All of my ancestral lines passed through London during the late 18th and 19th centuries - whether they originated from Devon, Bristol, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, or Germany they all eventually came to London. It was a period when London expanded to become the biggest city the world had ever seen, growing from a population of just 1 million in 1800 to over 6 million a century later.


Family historians can access a wealth of London records online - here are links to the key records that I've used to research my ancestors as they passed through London:


Baptisms, marriages, and burials 1538-1812 (marriages to 1753)

Baptisms 1813-1906

Marriages and banns 1754-1921

Burials 1813-1980

Poor Law records 1430-1930 (unindexed images)

School admissions and discharges 1840-1911

Westminster baptisms, marriages, and burials 1538-1945

Westminster Rate Books 1634-1900

Diocese of London Consistory Court Wills index


The records I've listed are specific to the London area, but of course there are many records that cover the whole of England that I used in conjunction with the local records, such as Censuses, GRO indexes, and the National Probate Calendar.


Home Office minister hints at GRO changes?

Earlier this month Mark Harper, the Minister for Immigration at the Home Office - and thus directly responsible for the General Register Office - wrote to Sir Alan Haselhurst, my local MP, to confirm that it is still the view of the GRO that amendments to primary legislation would be required if access to registration records were to be provided other than in the form of a paper certified copy.


On a more positive note, Sir Alan tells me that he later spoke personally to the Minister, and came away feeling that there may well be better news for us in 2014. I certainly hope so - it surely cannot be right that in the 21st century it should be more difficult to access these records than it was for most of the 19th century!


Adoption law to change

Another campaign to change the law has been more successful. LostCousins member Frances Lake, who co-ordinates the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons Group, forwarded to me details of a change in the law that was announced in the House of Lords on 9th December by Lord Nash, and supported by statement from the Department of Education.


Until now the Adoption and Children Act 2002 has provided for the birth records of an adopted person to be disclosed only in limited circumstances, principally where the adopted person themselves applies. This has meant that the descendants of a deceased adopted person cannot obtain original records if the adopted person did not apply in his lifetime.


I'd like to congratulate Frances and her colleagueson the success of their campaign - let's hope that this commonsense solution to a glaring problem inspires the Home Office to be equally creative in sorting out the GRO!


A child is born

At this time of year it's particularly appropriate to remember the children whose arrival in this world is unplanned and perhaps even unwanted. During our researches most of us have uncovered illegitimacy in our family trees - at least three of my direct ancestors were born to unmarried mothers - but often the stories behind the stark baptism register entries are lost in the mists of time.

The true story of Philomena Lee and her 50-year search for the son she was forced to give up at the age of 3 made a compelling book, and I'm looking forward to seeing the film when it comes out on DVD.


Another unmarried mother was Carol King-Eckersley, who for 45 long years kept her promise not to look for the son she gave up for adoption when she was only 19 - but she knew his new name, and after her husband died last year she decided to start searching for him. Sadly they were never to meet, because - as this BBC article relates - she discovered through her Internet research that almostquarter of a century earlier her son Kenneth had been one of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing.


There was a happier ending for Iris Lonergan in New Zealand who, just after her 100th birthday celebrations, revealed to her amazed family that she had been adopted. This revelation sparked off a hunt for possible siblings, and less than 3 months later she met her 89 year-old half-sister Merle for the very first time. (For more details see this article from the New Zealand Herald - thanks to Sue for the link.)


Also in New Zealand, novelist Catherine Styles decided to piece together the story of her late grandmother, whose cryptic comments had hinted that she was the illegitimate daughter of one of Britain's most -famous 19th century politicians. Disraeli's Daughter has so far only been published in New Zealand, but it certainly deserves a wider airing - perhaps between us the readers of this newsletter will be able to find the missing clues? Whether or not the story is true, Catherine Styles comes from a fascinating family, and I'd love to have met Kate, her grandmother!


Book review: Hiding the Past

I won't be giving much of the storyline away if I tell you that Hiding the Past also features an illegitimate child, but in this case there's absolutely no doubt that the story is fictional. It's the first outing for forensic genealogist Morton Farrier, and I have to say that there were several points during the book when I was convinced that it would also be his last appearance on the printed page! Fortunately, despite many unexpected twists and turns (some of which certainly wrong-footed me), the likeable hero not only survived but also succeeded in solving the mystery.


Once I started reading Hiding the Past I had great difficulty putting it down - not only did I want to know what happened next, I actually cared. I certainly hope that author Nathan Dylan Goodwin is already writing the next Morton Farrier story because I can't wait!


Available for Kindle or as a paperback (if you're not in the UK please follow this link).


Rate books go online at findmypast

19 million records taken from rate books for Westminster, Plymouth & West Devon, and Manchester have just become available at findmypast; the oldest records date from the late 16th century, and the most recent are from the early 20th century.


All of the records have been transcribed, and are searchable by name, and you can also view images of the handwritten books. An additional collection of 60,000 transcribed rate records from Southwark has also gone online.


Surrey and West Yorkshire Electoral Registers at Ancestry

Ancestry have recently added 10 million records from electoral registers for Surrey for 1918-45, and 22 million for West Yorkshire for 1840-1962.


Norfolk Register of Electors at FamilySearch

FamilySearch have recently uploaded millions of electoral records for Norfolk covering the period 1844-1952.


Victorian household hazards

Even in the 21st century more than twice as many people die in accidents in the home as on the roads and the railways added together - but the risks we face nowadays are nothing compared to the hazards of Victorian and Edwardian times, as this BBC articlemakes clear.


Wartime memories

Something I said in the last newsletter prompted LostCousins member Jan to write to me, and before long we discovered that our families attended the same church in the 1940s and 1950s. Soon we were exchanging names, photos, and stories - and I'd particularly like to share with you Jan's reminiscences of World War 2.


"When there isnít a war on, does daddy live at home?"

I was nine months old in September 1939, when the Second World War started, so all the memories of my first six years of life were connected with the war. I have many vivid memories of this time, but unfortunately, because I was so young, I have little knowledge of their chronology. So I will tell what I remember, and hope it wonít end up being too disjointed.

My most vivid memory occurred toward the very end of the war, in February 1945, so Iíll start with that:

I was living with my mother, older sister and grandmother at 64 New Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex. My father was in Italy with the RAF. Grandmother slept in the small front bedroom, and I shared the big double bed with my mother and sister. My mother had positioned the bed so that the back of the headboard faced towards the windows, so that if they were blown in during the night the headboard would protect our faces from the flying glass.

I remember waking suddenly some time during the night, with the bed strewn with rubble and rafters, looking at the stars through the hole in the ceiling and roof. A V2 rocket had landed a few houses away, and caused great devastation. My sister was laying with her head towards me at a very awkward angle, and where her head should normally have been was a huge chunk of masonry. Her eyes were filled with brick dust, as a result of which she had to wear spectacles for the rest of her life. I had a small nick on my left wrist, my mother had a cut on her head which bled profusely. My grandmother was unharmed, though her history of minor heart attacks was a big additional worry for my mother.

My sister tried to open the bedroom door but couldnít because of the all rubble on the floor, so she dashed to the glassless windows and called out for help. Fortunately my mother was able to get the door open eventually, and she carried me down the stairs, which were more of a slope because of all the bricks, plaster etc. that had fallen on them. She was barefooted at the time.

I remember she found a black ribbed rubber mat from somewhere and put that on the bottom stair, sat me on it and went back to get my sister. Before she returned a man came into the house, he was an off-duty policeman who had come to see if he could help. He picked me up, and I can still remember the feel of his tweed jacket, and seeing my reflection in the mirror which by some miracle was still hanging on the hall wall. (The front door had been blown into the back garden, and a huge piece of kerbstone was on the dining room window sill, having been blown through the sitting room and the dividing wall.)

Eventually my mother managed to get my sister and grandmother downstairs. By this time her feet were badly cut, so she tried to get some shoes out of the cupboard under the stairs, but couldnít manage to open the door. Then someone shone a torch on it for her, and she found that the door panel was missing, so she just reached through and found the shoes she needed.

Because of the blood from my motherís head wound (when it was cleaned up the nurse couldnít even find where she was injured, so no stitches were needed), my sisterís dust-filled eyes and my heart attack prone grandmother, they were taken to hospital in an ambulance, while I was left in the care of one of my Sunday School teachers (Miss Christmas), who lived nearby. Even though their house was a few streets away and round a corner, that too had been badly damaged, with windows missing and a huge hole in the wall between the sitting room and dining room. I remember her mother, Mrs Christmas, handing cups of tea through this hole saying that she had always wanted a serving hatch. That was typical of the attitude of the people during those times.

I was tucked up warmly on the sofa in the sitting room, and Miss Christmas played I Spy with me for a long time, until I was ready to go back to sleep. She told me that by the time I woke up mummy would be back, and fortunately she was, having crept into the room just before I awoke.

Because our house was so badly damaged (it was the first on the block that didnít have to be demolished completely), we were unable to go back to it, so lodged for many months with an elderly friend of my grandmotherís.

All this I remember. What I was later told about that night was that several people were killed, either by being hit by falling buildings or by the blast. Many houses were demolished immediately, many others had to be demolished later. Looting was rife, unfortunately, so local residents guarded the empty properties. One of my treasured possessions was a big scooter. My mother found it and hid it in the little space under the floor. When we returned to the house after the builders had finished repairing it, the scooter was no longer there.

For months after our return, local people knocked on the door returning things they had managed to salvage for my mother Ė some crockery, some linen, even some jars of bottled fruit that my mother had prepared.

I can remember that we were back in the house by November 1945 at the latest. How they managed to repair the house in such a short time, bearing in mind how many houses needed work, I do not know. I recall standing at the back door with my mother and sister on 5th November, watching the fireworks being let off in the garden next door to us, when there was a knock at the door and it was daddy, home from the war. Of course fireworks were forgotten immediately, and we had great fun looking at all the strange things heíd brought home with him Ė a camp bed, and even more odd a camp washbasin, which was a waxed fabric contraption which slotted onto a wooden frame. I was immediately lifted so that I could sit in it, to my great delight.


Roman scrolls outlast 1931 Census

Almost exactly 71 years ago, on 19th December 1942, the 1931 England & Wales census was destroyed by fire. Contemporary accounts suggested that the damage was so serious that nothing could be saved (see my June 2010 newsletter for more details).


So imagine my surprise to read this week in a BBC article that classical scholars are hoping to recover information from some of the scrolls that were burned almost 2,000 years ago when the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.


I certainly got me wondering whether some of the census information might have been recoverable, if only the charred remains had been stored until the necessary technology became available?


How much do we really know about the census?

Those of us with British ancestry are fortunate that so many censuses have survived - there are plenty of countries whose censuses were lost or destroyed - and for many of us the information in the census forms the core of our research.


However, it's all too easy to make assumptions about the census records. Until the household schedules from the 1911 Census were published it was natural to blame the enumerators for errors: because we couldn't see what the householders themselves wrote, we assumed that our ancestors got it right, and that any errors were down to the enumerator mishearing, misreading, or mistranscribing the data. How wrong we were!


But can we extrapolate what we see in 1911 back to 1841? Were there householder schedules for those earlier censuses, and if so were they filled in by the householders themselves, or by the enumerators? After all, as recently as 1971 - when I was an enumerator - many of the older householders seemed incapable of filling in the forms themselves, and the levels of literacy were clearly much lower in 1841.


Frustratingly it was only in 1904 - just a few years before the coming into being of the Society of Genealogists - that the Householder Schedules for the 1841 Census were destroyed on the orders of a departmental committee. How different might it have been for family historians if they had not been destroyed?


Until very recently we could only speculate as to what they might have been revealed - but 2 years ago the persistence of LostCousins member Donald Davis led to the discovery of a box of household schedules from the 1841 Census in Shropshire Archives. It's not clear how or why those few hundred returns survived when millions of others were destroyed, but the fact that they did provides enormous insight into the 1841 Census.


In March those of us who are attending Genealogy in the Sunshine will have the privilege of hearing from Don what he discovered when he analysed those surviving returns, and how we need to adjust our thinking about the census in the light of his discovery. It should be fascinating!


Save on WDYTYA tickets with Ancestry

If you didn't take advantage of the early bird offer of 2 tickets for £22 you haven't completely missed out - Ancestry are offering discounts on single tickets as well as pairs of tickets - just follow this link.


Jamaican genealogy site is now completely free

The website Jamaican Family Search is now completely free - previously some records were chargeable. If you have family connections with the island it's an excellent place to start your research.


Last chance to save on DNA tests

You've got just one more week to save on DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, the firm I chose to test my own DNA.


Can your actions affect your descendants' behaviour?

Recently published research, reported in this BBC article, suggests that it's possible for animals - including humans - to pass on the memory of traumatic events through their genes. Other research reported recently, which was based on studies of twins, reveals that genetics accounts for 60% of the variation in GCSE scores.


The more we discover about our ancestors and their lives, the more connections we tend to make between their life experiences and ours. In the past I'd always tended to assume that the apparent connections were simply a coincidence, but perhaps in view of the latest research findings I should think again?


Peter's Tips

In the last newsletter I explained how you could disable the Caps Lock key on your keyboard - but what I didn't mention was that I'd previously tried another solution, which is to turn on a Windows option which bleeps whenever the Caps Lock, Num Lock or Scroll Lock is pressed. On recent versions of Windows you'll find it under Ease of Access in the Control Panel, and you may also be able to invoke it by holding down the Num Lock key for more than 5 seconds.


However not only did I find the bleeps annoying, after pressing Caps Lock by mistake I still had to press it again to put things right. On the other hand, since several members have written to tell me how well it works for them, it might be precisely what you're looking for.


Not everyone who reads this newsletter appreciates the tips which are unrelated to genealogy, but the way I look at is that if I can save you a couple of hundred pounds on your heating bills, on your phone bills, or on your shopping, then it's enough to pay for subscriptions to both Ancestry and findmypast - a combination that could transform your research! So I'm going to be continuing with my tips in 2014.


According to Which? magazine, in November the users of their free Which? Switch website saved an average of £253 per annum by moving their gas and/or electricity to a cheaper supplier, 15% more than in the previous month. Another tip (from the January 2014 issue of Which? magazine) is that many people would get a higher rate of interest on their savings from a current account than from a savings account - although some of highest-paying current accounts also have a monthly fee, which could offset most or all of the higher interest.


(Personally I prefer to invest my money through the peer-to-peer lending site Zopa where I earn over 4% - it's also good to know that my money is going to people who actually need it, and not being used for speculation!)


Another tip from the latest Which? magazine is to avoid Over-50s insurance plans. I received one of these offers recently from a well-known bank - they described it as "insurance from a name you can trust", or words to that effect, but a quick calculation confirmed that the best thing I could do was file it under R for Rip-off!


Just as bad are the hackers who try to take over your computer or your email account for their own nefarious purposes - some people think they do it for fun, but it's actually part of a massive international fraud that depends on ordinary people being careless, lazy, or simply unlucky. You probably won't even realise that they've got control of your computer until it's too late!


Around this time of year I start looking to renew the licences for my Internet Security software - and reading the comparative reviews just to make sure that Kaspersky is still rated the best by Computer Shopper, the only magazine I trust. An added complication this year is that they now offer Internet Security software that works across a range of devices - not just computers, but also tablets and smartphones - so it's handy to be able to buy a 5-user version of the software.


Did you know that Kaspersky offer free upgrades to the latest software? You can usually save a lot of money by purchasing an older version - and you may also find, as I did, that a 5-user package costs little more than one for 1 or 3 user version (take a look here at some of the prices!).


I know that some people still rely on free anti-virus software, but personally I wouldn't use anything but the best - what's the point when the saving is only a few pounds a year per computer? In the Computer Shopper tests only Kaspersky intercepted 100% of the threats - even the best free software allowed 6 out of 100 threats to slip through (and Microsoft's Security Essentials let 18 through!).


Stop Press

This is where I'll post any last minute news, updates, or offers.


Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter - hopefully you won't have to 2ait too long for the next issue.


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver


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