Newsletter - 5th December 2014
Trade Union records at Findmypast OUT TODAY
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On Monday there was a momentous announcement from the National Library of Ireland - the library's entire collection of Catholic parish registers on microfilm is to be made available online, completely free of charge, during the summer of 2015 (you can download a PDF copy of the press release by following this link). Since the 1970s it has been possible to view the microfilms by going to Dublin, but many researchers simply haven't been able to make the journey.
Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, the registers cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist
primarily of baptismal and marriage records; in the region of 390,000 images have been digitized. Catholic baptism registers often include the names of godparents, which can be a great help in identifying the correct entry - potentially even more helpful than the names of marriage witnesses; some show the mother's maiden name.
The bad news is that there are currently no plans to transcribe and index the records, which means that researchers who don't know which part of Ireland their ancestors came from will have an impossible task. Let's hope that one of the large genealogy websites is planning to step into the breach.
Some lucky researchers may not have to wait - you can search millions of Irish records, including some parish records, at Ancestry and Findmypast. And by the way, Findmypast have just added a further 3.6 million Irish dog licence records, more than doubling the size of this interesting resource to over 6 million. Don't worry, they're indexed by the name of the owner, not the dog - you can search them here.
Tip: there's a guide to common Latin words and phrases that you might come across during your research on this page (although it's an Ancestry guide, you don't need to be a subscriber).
Today Findmypast released over 3 million trade union records from the collection at the University of Warwick's Modern Records Centre. If you have carpenters or other woodworkers, railway workers, printers, boilermakers or shipbuilders in your tree it's well worth taking a look - you can search free here, and whilst you'll need to pay to see the records there's actually quite a lot of information in the search results. For example, I was able to identify Charles Calver, my double 1st cousin 3 times removed in these search results:
As you can see, he appears twice, with different joining dates - perhaps his membership lapsed because of the Great War, or maybe he simply switched from one branch to another.
There was a surprising bonus - the last entry in the snippet above relates to Charles Henry Barton Calver, my 1st cousin twice removed, who went with his parents and siblings to Toronto in 1910. I would never have thought to look for my migrant relatives in these records!
Also somewhat unexpected was the discovery of my mother's father in the records of the United Society of Boilermakers & Iron Shipbuilders - not because I didn't know he was a boilermaker (I remember the inscription on the clock he was given in 1947, after 47 years with the same firm), but because in the 1911 Census he was recorded as an employer, not an employee.
By the way, it's not only men who belonged to these unions - there are tens of thousands of women who worked for the railways, especially during World War 1, when you may find them as porters, van drivers and in many other roles.
I wonder who you'll find in these new records?
Note: if you're wondering why I described Charles Calver as my double 1st cousin, it's because he shares my great-great-great grandparents twice over - two brothers married two sisters.
Both Ancestry and Findmypast are working together with FamilySearch to make the records more readily available. In the Stop Press of my last newsletter I mentioned that Findmypast had added over 13 million Scottish parish records; now it's the turn of England & Wales with 60 million English and 700,000 Welsh baptism records.
What's the point of adding records to subscription sites when they're already available free elsewhere? The fact is, the more records there are in one place, the less likely we are to miss what we're looking for (or to pick the wrong baptism entry); you know how well as I do that from time to time we make serendipitous discoveries - as I did when I searched the new Trade Union records. Another important factor is that different sites offer different searches - so you might find it easier to find a record at one site than another.
Note: there was a problem with the English baptisms (missing forenames), but Findmypast's programmers worked through the weekend and it has now been sorted. What service!
Findmypast have a Christmas Countdown - a sort of advent calendar substitute which features a daily tip, quiz, or competition - it's well worth keeping an eye on and I suspect that the closer we get to Christmas the more fun we'll have!
Half-price subscriptions at Genes Reunited ENDS FRIDAY
You've got just a week to take advantage of the exclusive offer I arranged for readers of this newsletter - see last issue for details.
Note: the offer is for new or lapsed subscribers only, and applies to the 12 month Standard subscription, which is the best value option.
Richard III DNA poses new mystery
The skeleton of Richard III, discovered under a Leicester car park, was identified using the mtDNA that he inherited from his mother - it was a perfect match with a sample taken from two female line descendants of his sister, Anne of York. Research published this week has concluded that the odds are at least 100,000 to 1 that the body has been correctly identified. And yet a Y-DNA sample doesn't match with that of supposed living male relatives - what could have gone wrong?
Richard III had only two sons, one legitimate and one illegitimate: his legitimate son died in childhood and the fate of his illegitimate son is unknown - one source says that he was executed. There are certainly no documented descendants of Richard who could provide a Y-DNA sample for comparison purposes, and the researchers had to go back 4 generations, to Edward III, to find an ancestor with living descendants in the direct male line, as you can see from this family tree (reproduced from the Nature article).
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Note: the numbers in the family tree show the number of people in the tree between the named individuals - thus there are 14 generations between John of Gaunt and the 5th Duke of Beaufort.
Assuming that we accept the overwhelming evidence from mtDNA and other factors that the skeleton is indeed that of Richard III, how can we account for the discrepancy?
Five descendants of the 5th Duke of Beaufort were tested - four of the five had Y-DNA that was closely-matched, so it is overwhelmingly likely that it is also a match for the Y-DNA of the 5th Duke. This leaves two possibilities - either the 5th Duke of Beaufort or Richard III was not a direct male descendant of Edward III, even though this is what the history books record.
There are 4 generations between Edward III and Richard III, but 15 between Edward III and the 5th Duke of Beaufort - this means it is most likely that the infidelity occurred not in Richard III's line, but in the Duke of Beaufort's line. Indeed, if you research the Duke of Beaufort's ancestry you'll discover that his ancestor Charles Somerset, the 1st Earl of Worcester, was born illegitimately c1460 - though he was acknowledged by his supposed father, Henry Beaufort, the 2nd Duke of Somerset.
Similarly John de Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, was born illegitimately between 1371 and 1373 but acknowledged by his supposed father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III (his birth was later legitimated by parliament, and by a papal decree).
Could either of those putative fathers have been hoodwinked into believing that they were the father of their mistress's child? Or was one of the wives of the legitimate ancestors unfaithful? It's possible that further DNA tests will provide the answer.
In the abbreviated family tree above the focus is on the direct male and direct female lines - because it's Y-DNA and mtDNA that passes from one generation to the next without mixing.
But these tests are far from equal - whereas Y-DNA tests have the potential to solve mysteries, mtDNA is rarely able to do more than prove (or disprove) a hypothesis. For example, if the archaeologists who discovered Richard III's skeleton hadn't already got a pretty good idea who it might belong to, the mtDNA test probably wouldn't have told them anything useful. One for reason for this is that mtDNA mutates more slowly, but the biggest problems is that surnames are passed down the male line, so that whereas the Y-DNA matches you get will often tell you the surname of the person you're trying to identify, mtDNA results provide no such clues.
Of course, if you're female you haven't inherited your father's Y-DNA, so if he's no longer around to provide a sample you'll need to ask someone who shares his Y-DNA - this might, for example, be your brother or your uncle (your father's brother). Even if you're male, the Y-DNA you've inherited will have come from the ancestors in your direct paternal line - and the chances are that the 'brick walls' you're trying to knock down are on different lines.
However, you shouldn't give up - there may well be someone else who can provide the sample you need. Perhaps the most common problem family historians face is an illegitimate ancestor - there are several in my tree (and those are just the ones I know about!). In this case you'll need a sample from someone in the direct male line of descent from the unknown father, ie a son of a son of a son etc
This means that if your illegitimate ancestor was female (as most of mine were), you fall at the first hurdle - unless, perhaps, there were other illegitimate children born to the same mother and you have good reason to suspect that they had the same father.
But whilst DNA tests cannot solve every problem, the fact that we can knock down any 'brick walls' in our family tree using technology that was invented in our lifetime seems like a miracle to me!
The big discounts at Family Tree DNA continue - if you haven't already taken the plunge, there's no time like the present. See the links in my last newsletter if you need to know more about how DNA testing works, and what it possible.
Meanwhile 23andme have launched their rather more controversial test in the UK (see this BBC news article). If you're only interested in the genealogical aspects, rather than the health angle, then a Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA is a lot cheaper (especially while the offer lasts).
As reported above, we now know as a result of DNA tests that either Richard III or the 5th Duke of Beaufort (or indeed, both of them) weren't descended from Edward III in the direct male line - the paperwork is wrong. But ironically you and I might be descended from Edward III, even if they aren't!
One genealogist has estimated that the chance of someone alive today who has mainly English ancestry being a descendant of Edward III is close to 100% - but as he rightly says, "documenting one's own descent from Edward III is, however, another matter!".
Occasionally we may serendipitously discover someone with whom we share a common ancestor several centuries ago - for example, after mentioning one of my Devon ancestors by name in the last newsletter I received an email from a member in Canada who shares my 8G grandparents (which makes us 9th cousins).
I have to admit that you're fairly unlikely to discover such a distant cousin though LostCousins - you're more likely to find 3rd, 4th, and 5th cousins - but remember that a 5th cousin who shares your 4G grandparents also shares 4 of your 5G grandparents, 8 of your 6G grandparents, 16 of your 7G grandparents and 32 of your 8G grandparents!
Tip: a lot of people assume that because we focus on the 1881 Census at LostCousins, the cousins they'll find won't be able to help them with 'brick walls' in the 17th, and 18th centuries. The reality is that the census is merely a simple - and highly accurate - way to identify people who share the same ancestors.
Graham's Dad meets the King & Queen
After last month's photograph which purported to show Beverley's great grandfather meeting George V - but turned out to be fakes - I thought you might like to some genuine photos.
Graham's father was in the army in 1948 when King George VI (in his kilt), Queen Elizabeth, and Princess Margaret came to inspect the troops, possibly at Crieff. Sadly the wonderful photos had become somewhat battered and torn over the years, as you can see:
Graham's father - the soldier on the right in both pictures - died in 1974, and Graham's mother is now 88 - so he hoped that it might be possible to restore the photos to something approaching their original condition. Fortunately Graham spotted the link in recent LostCousins newsletter to Repixl.
I don't know how much Graham paid, but I have a feeling that when it came to photos like these price simply was't important (and after all, the most that Repixl charge is £8.99).
What a difference! And you too can benefit from such miracles because the exclusive 20% discount offer I've arranged with Repixl continues until Christmas - just follow this link and use the discount code displayed. (I can guarantee that when you see the results you'll feel happier than Princess Margaret looks, poor girl!)
Wills can be incredibly useful documents - and whilst you might be tempted to focus on wills made by your direct ancestors, some of the most useful clues could come from people who are on the periphery of your tree. For example Felix Kleyser, who died in 1827, was married to my great-great-great grandmother's sister - yet the clues I gleaned from his will were invaluable in solving a family mystery. Here's an extract from his will:
"in the event of my said daughter dying before she shall attain the age of twenty one years my said Trustees or the survivor of them or the executors or administrators of such survivor shall out of the said stock so to be purchased pay the sum of ten pounds unto the son of Catherine Keener my late wife's sister and also pay the sum of twenty pounds thereout unto Felix Dreysen my Godson (being the son of Francis Dreysen) and after the payment of the said Legacies upon trust to pay over the remainder of such stock so to be purchased as aforesaid unto and amongst the whole of my relatives who may then be living in Germany or otherwise"
What did I learn from this? Firstly, it helped to confirm that my great-great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Keehner, who had married Francis Driesen, was the sister of Mary Ann Keehner (Felix Kleyser's late wife). Elizabeth, the eldest of the family, hadn't been baptised at St Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey - unlike her 6 brothers and sisters - so I needed to come up with some other way of proving that she was part of the same family.
Secondly, it told me that my ancestor's sister Catherine had borne a child at least 5 years before her marriage in 1832. This wasn't a great surprise - I already had my suspicions - but this was the first piece of hard evidence I'd found. Finally the reference to relatives in Germany helped to confirm my supposition that my Keehner ancestors had come from Germany. It wasn't proof - since Felix Kleyser was talking about his own relatives, not mine - but it added to the circumstantial evidence.
So much useful information - yet the testator wasn't even a blood relative of mine!
I don't know whether it's a record, but I've finally finished reading Wills and Other Probate Records which (according to Amazon) I bought on 18th October 2004.
Published by the National Archives, and written by two of their experts, the book told me an awful lot that I didn't know previously, especially when it came to topics such as death duties, inventories, and who could legally make a will. As I write there are second-hand copies available at Amazon for as little as 1p (plus postage) though I suspect they'll be snapped up as soon as this newsletter appears (I certainly don't concur with the two reviewers who gave it mediocre reviews - it's a very handy book to have).
From 1858 onwards there is a centralised index of wills and administrations in England & Wales, the National Probate Calendar - but prior to that date probate was primarily an ecclesiastical matter, and there were over 200 courts which dealt with wills. The relevant court was determined by the amount of goods and property, and where they were.
For example, if the testator's assets were within a single archdeaconry, then the Archdeacon's court would be the one to handle probate. On the other hand, if there were goods or property in more than one archdeaconry, but all of the archdeaconries were in the same diocese, probate would be dealt with by the Bishop's court (referred to as a 'consistory' or 'commissary' court). In either case the surviving records will be found at the local record office, although because the boundaries of dioceses often didn't conform with county boundaries it won't always be obvious which record office to go to.
If there were was property worth £5 or more in more than one diocese then probate could only be handled by the Archbishop's Prerogative Court, in either York or Canterbury. The Canterbury records are held by the National Archives, and you can view the wills online with a subscription to either Ancestry or The Genealogist (or you can download a single will from DocumentsOnline at the National Archives website for £3.30). The York records are held by the Borthwick Institute, but there is an index at Findmypast - if you locate a will of interest you can order it from the Borthwick Institute at a cost of between £7.50 and £10.
Pre-1858 wills for Wales can be viewed free at the National Library of Wales website.
Note: In Scotland the term testaments is used to refer to documents connected with a deceased's estate - ScotlandsPeople has a free index to testaments from 1514-1925 and if your search is successful you can download documents using credits.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that the Probate Service were planning to extend their online index and online ordering to cover all England & Wales wills since 1858. What I hadn't anticipated was the closure of the search rooms - with the London search room closing at the end of next week (Friday 12th December). A meeting was called on Tuesday of this week which was attended by several LostCousins members, including Dawn, who kindly kept me informed. I also found a report on the Society of Genealogists website which was written by Diana Bouglas, vice-Chairman of the SoG.
For most family historians the changes are good news - relatively few of us have trekked up to London (or to one of the provincial search rooms) - so historically we've ordered wills by post. Overseas researchers have found it particularly difficult in the past, because not only were overseas cheques not accepted (which is understandable, given the high charges that banks levy), it wasn't possible to pay by credit card either.
So when I encountered Chris Grayling, the Minister of Justice (and the first non-lawyer to be appointed Lord Chancellor since 1673), last week I congratulated him on the new system, and commented how sad it was that the General Register Office were still stuck in neutral with the handbrake on.
However there was an ulterior motive to buttering up the minister - I wanted to tackle him on two unresolved issues which are also of concern to family historians, and which are administered by his department. The first was the way in which the reorganisation and, in some cases, redevelopment of cemeteries is managed.
At the moment cemeteries are allowed to remove or destroy gravestones and move the remains of our ancestors without making any meaningful attempt to warn us what is going to happen - all they are obliged to do is advertise in the local newspaper listing the plot numbers of the graves that are affected. As I said to the minister, because most people move away from their home towns, we're not going to see the local paper - and even if we did, we probably don't know which cemetery our ancestors are buried in, let alone the plot numbers. What we really need is names and dates published online!
The other point I made related to the Data Protection Act, and the way that it has - quite perversely - resulted in personal data being destroyed rather than protected (or handed back to the people it relates to). Hospitals routinely destroy our records after 8 to 12 years (it's usually even less for people who have died), and in some cases organisations have chosen to destroy OUR records to avoid the hassle of providing access to them. When data protection legislation doesn't protect data, it's time for change.
I'm glad to say that the minister seemed to be in broad agreement on both these points - though whether he'll have an opportunity to do anything about them before the election next May is another matter. We can never be sure what impact - if any - our actions will have, but I know that if we don't raise these issues when we have the opportunity, then we're unlikely to get the results we want.
Note: at 6ft 4½in it's not often I look up to anyone, let alone a politician, but at 6ft 4¾in Chris Grayling is just that little bit taller than me.
Planning to visit the world's biggest genealogy show? In 2015 it's at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham between Thursday 16th to Saturday 18th April.
For a limited time you can buy two tickets for £22 when you follow this link and use the code EARLY2422 (the code is valid for all 3 days of the show - click the BOOK TICKETS icon at the top right of the page to choose a different day).
Most of Charles Dickens' novels were published in instalments so when I heard that Nathan Dylan Goodwin, whose genealogical mysteries featuring Morton Farrier have given me a great deal of pleasure, was writing a novella I was delighted - it meant I wouldn't have to wait so long for the next part of the story!
Whereas the novels have focused on the ancestors of Morton Farrier's clients, The Orange Lilies sees Morton for once investigating his own tree (and about time too!). Moving smoothly between Christmas 1914 and Christmas 2014, the author weaves an intriguing tale with more than a few twists - several times I thought I'd figured it all out, but each time there was a surprise waiting in the next chapter.
The way Morton Farrier used websites like Ancestry and Findmypast made it all the more realistic - and the icing on the cake came when he discovered a distant relative at LostCousins who had inherited many of his great-grandfather's possessions, including his war medals.
At 135 pages it’s little more than half the length of The Lost Ancestor, which came out in the autumn, and Hiding the Past, which came out last year - but at just £1.99 it's also half the price (and I enjoyed it just as much). Thoroughly recommended - and I can't wait for the next novel, which I gather is already being written!
The Orange Lilies is currently only on Kindle, but there may be a paperback version - if so I'll let you know. If you live outside the UK please use these links (they'll take you direct to the right page though you may find that it hasn't been released in your country yet):
By the way, you don't need to have read any of the previous books in the series, though you'll probably enjoy the books all the more if you read them in order.
The very first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by Henry Cole in 1843. The British Postal Museum and Archive is selling reproductions so that you can send them to the special people in your life - you'll find them here. Warning: they're not cheap!
Until midnight on Friday 12th December you can save a massive 20% on the already discounted prices at The Book People when you click here and use the code ELF20 - I'm not going to tell you what I've bought, because you-know-who might be reading, but I always place at least one order in the run-up to Christmas. And by the way, if you spend £25 or more you get free delivery (within the UK).
Something else to consider as a seasonal gift is a one month gift subscription to the British Newspaper Archive, which costs £9.95 - the month doesn't start until the lucky recipient activates it using the code that you'll be sent by email.
If you're prepared to put in a little more effort, then the 30% discount on photo books at Albelli is well worth having; or spend £80 or more and get 40% off everything (except shipping) when you click here (both offers end on 25th December).
Finally, I promised to comment on the government consultation about the proposed inclusion of peer-to-peer lending (through sites like Zopa or Ratesetter) in ISAs. The questions in the document are primarily aimed at companies in the financial industry, and one point that doesn't seem to be covered is the question of whether it would be possible to put existing loans into ISAs.
It seems to me that the market will be greatly disrupted if this isn't possible - both before the start date, as a result of people delaying investment, and afterwards. The consultation document states that "all views are welcomed" so this is a point I shall make, and you may wish to as well (especially if you are an existing lender, or plan to become a lender as a result of the change).
Tuesday: Scotlandspeople have just launched the 1925 Valuation Rolls.
With Christmas fast approaching I'm not sure when my next newsletter will be published - but it will be worth waiting for, I'm sure!
© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver
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