Newsletter - April 8 2009



Meet me at the Barbican Centre

Fancy editing a major genealogy magazine?

Great War diary is online

Our 5th birthday is approaching…

LostCousins is free for Easter

Address changes can be confusing!

Scottish death & burial records now online

A new version of the Scotland 1881 census

Were your ancestors non-conformists?

Simple steps to finding cousins

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


To visit the main LostCousins site please go to


If you missed the previous LostCousins newsletter (dated 21/3/09), or would like to see it again, click here. Newsletters since 21 February 2009 are still available online.




Are you going to The Family History Event on Sunday May 3, the one-day fair in London that's exclusively for family historians? Not only will over 80 societies be represented there, so will LostCousins - I will be there in person to meet you. Click here to find out more about the show - I look forward to seeing you there!



The National Archives are looking for a Deputy Editor for Ancestors magazine, one of Britain's leading family history publications. If you have proven journalistic skills and fancy working at Kew, home of The National Archives, you should get in touch with them right away.



Did you see in the press about the page from a First World War diary on which Rifleman Bernard Brookes had collected the names and addresses of three German soldiers who he met during the famous Christmas truce of 1914? It was auctioned at Bonhams on March 23.


I've just discovered that the text of the war diary has been transcribed by his son, and made available online - well worth a look! Do you have similar heirlooms in your family? I discovered recently that my father's mother kept all his letters home during the Second World War - hundreds of them - and it has been really fascinating reading through them and asking my father to explain the background to some of the events and people mentioned. Isn't it wonderful how family history brings us closer together?



The LostCousins site first opened on May 1, 2004 and if you attended the Society of Genealogists show that day you would have seen me handing out hundreds of leaflets. But it wasn't an auspicious start - at the end of the first day we had just 10 members, and by the end of the second day there were still only 16. Who would have thought then that 5 years on there would be over 71,000 of us?


The amazing thing is that all this has been achieved without advertising. I made a decision right at the start that I'd rather spend money developing the website than on advertising, and this is how we've been able to expand from just one census to five (we now cover the USA and Canada as well as Britain). Of course, the best possible adverts are our members - which is perhaps why so many new members tell me that they heard about LostCousins from a friend or relative, or a recommendation on an online forum. I'd also like to pay tribute to all the 'buddies' who have helped other members with their research over the past 5 years - what they've achieved is amazing.


My aim when we began was to match people who are living relatives both automatically and with near 100% accuracy - because there are lots of other sites that aim to link people up, but none of them has a system that's both automatic and highly accurate. Most family historians are - like me - short of time, so I wanted a system that would eliminate errors, and avoid time-wasting.


Since 2004 over 20,000 members have been matched with each other, but in all this time only about a dozen errors have been reported - so when I talk about 99.9% accuracy I really mean it! Incidentally, in every case the error has not been the fault of the system, but the result of a member identifying the wrong person on the census - which is bound to happen now and again (although I must say that LostCousins members are more experienced than most and so less likely to make mistakes).



Once again, the LostCousins site is totally free for the Easter period. From now until Tuesday, April 14 you can contact all the other members you've been matched with - as many of them as you like, and whether or not you've been in contact before - all without having to pay a penny. (Normally only subscribers can contact someone for the first time.)


This means it's a great time to complete your My Ancestors page if you haven't already done so (less than 10% of members have entered all of the relatives they can find in 1881). Remember that every single relative you enter is a potential link to a 'lost cousin' - and that every relative you omit represents a lost opportunity. If your ancestors were all or mostly British, then I'd be surprised if you couldn't find at least 100 relatives on the 1881 census alone.


Wouldn't Easter be a great time to find some 'lost cousins'? See the article Simple Steps to Finding Cousins for hints and tips that will help you find more of your living relatives.



I recently wrote about the facsimile edition of the 1938 A-Z of London which shows the Greater London area before the Second World War. But what I omitted to mention is the 31 pages of street name changes - over 2000 in all - that you'll find between the maps and the main street index. This is an absolutely invaluable guide! For years I'd wondered where I could find Oxford Street E1, home to several of my ancestors at various times during the second half of the 19th century - and now I know that it was renamed Stepney Way.


Many street names changed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the houses were often renumbered to reflect the new building that had taken place. For example, in the 1901 Census my grandfather was living at 189 White Post Lane, a very rural sounding address - but within a few years the street had become High Street North, East Ham and been completely renumbered.


The problem really got going in 1888 when the London County Council and General Post Office began a renaming and renumbering scheme to eliminate duplicate road names and ensure that the lowest-numbers were closest to the post office, presumably to make it simpler for postmen to sort their mail prior to starting their round.  London wasn't the only place to undergo such changes - I found an interesting account of how the streets in Cheltenham came to be numbered. *** also see Stop Press


All of this can make it incredibly difficult to be sure precisely where your ancestors lived, though you may find that the local council has records that will help, either in the planning department or in the archives. You can also make deductions about where particular houses were sited by looking at the order in which they were enumerated in the census, especially if there were side streets or alley ways, or landmarks such as pubs.



Scotlandspeople is by far the most comprehensive source of information for those with Scottish ancestry, and they have now made available for the first time death and burial records from the period before Civil Registration, including images of the original register entries. This example page on the Scotlandspeople site gives you an idea of what you can hope to find, although you need to be aware that the records are variable and quite sparse, as explained here.



More good news for those with Scottish ancestry. If you've had difficulty finding your relatives in the Scotland 1881 census you'll be delighted to learn that Scotlandspeople now has a completely new transcription, and also images of the handwritten enumeration schedules - and I believe this is the first time they've ever been available online! The original LDS transcription is still available on the site.



If you're having difficulty finding the baptisms of your ancestors you might want to consider the possibility that they were non-conformists. Between 1754 and 1837 marriages in England & Wales were only legal if they took place under the ordinances of the established church, the only exceptions being for Jews and Quakers, who were allowed to conduct their own ceremonies. No matter how strongly they objected, Roman Catholics and non-conformist Protestants such as Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists had no choice but to marry in the established church.


As a result, the discovery that your ancestors married in their local parish church doesn't mean that they also worshipped there - nor that they would have been baptised there. If you find marriages, but not baptisms, then this suggests that they were non-conformists - in which case you may find the relevant baptisms in non-conformist records. Some of these registers and other records are held by local archives, but many are at The National Archives in Kew. This page on the TNA site explains what records they hold, and how they can be searched - some are available online.



Do you have a print-out of your family tree? Try using a highlighter pen to mark the relatives who were alive at the time of the 1881 Census - you'll almost certainly find that there are numerous relatives who you haven't recorded on your My Ancestors page. A common mistake is to focus on direct ancestors, forgetting that most of your living relatives are descended from their brothers and sisters. The relatives most likely to lead to your 'lost cousins' are the brothers and sisters who had families of their own in 1881.


Please don't restrict your entries to the part of your tree you're currently researching - because that prevents cousins from your other lines finding you. LostCousins is all about sharing information with your living relatives, so you need to think about their needs as well as your own.


Are there any red ! symbols on your My Ancestor page? These indicate entries which are close, but not identical to another entry in the database. Typically one member has entered their relative as they appear in the census, but another member has altered the name slightly, perhaps adding a middle name. It's so easy to change Wm to William, Geo to George, or Mary A to Mary Ann - we do it almost without thinking! Only entries that are 100% identical will be matched, so my advice is to check your entry against the census - just in case.



We're all affected by the credit crunch, so my aim is to save you money on things that you were going to buy anyway - which is why I've focused on things that everyone buys, like postage stamps, gas, and electricity. But by following my advice you could save money on almost anything, as you can see from this extract from an email I received recently from Irene demonstrates. "This is the first time I have used your tips," she wrote "so thanks a bunch for saving us £20 on our new lawn mower."


Postage rates in the UK went up on Monday April 6, by 3p for a standard letter - but LostCousins members who followed my advice will have bought their stamps at the old price. 3p may not sound very much, but if every LostCousins member who lives in the UK had bought 100 stamps, the total saving made by members would be well over £100,000! So just think what we could achieve if they all used the free Which? Switch site to find a cheaper supplier of gas or electricity - with an average saving of over £200 a year the total would be enough to pay Sir Fred Goodwin's ginormous pension 12 times over (though I'm sure you can think of better things to do with the money).


I'm going to start this time with some genealogy tips. Save 20% discount on your first subscription payment to Origins when you enter the offer code EASTER09 on the sign-up page or check-out page. Origins has one of the best online collections of Irish records, but there is a wide range of British records too, including several databases provided in association with the Society of Genealogists (SoG members have free access to those databases). The code is valid to April 19.


Don't allow your 1911 Census credits to expire! If, like me, you were one of the first users of the site when it launched on January 13, then any credits you bought then will expire shortly (they have a 90-day life). Remember too that credits bought at can be used at either site. By the way, the last 3 English counties should be online any day now - and then it will be the turn of Wales. *** see STOP PRESS


Has someone you know been made redundant recently? A lot of people decide to start up on their own when they're made redundant, so here are a few money-saving tips for anyone starting a business. Abbey offers free business bank accounts, and it's not just an introductory offer - they're free forever as long as you stay within the limits. If you need a second phone line at home, then BT are the only company which offer call packages that cover two lines for the same price as one. And last, but by no means least, Directline will usually allow you to use your car for business without charging extra for the insurance - but you have to ask!


Finally, a website that I came across recently that can help you determine if there are benefits that you ought to be receiving - assuming you're a British resident. It's called entitledto, which seems appropriate, and is very straightforward - unlike the social security system.





1911 Census: the 1911 Census of England is now complete, and according to the census blog, we can hope to see the first Welsh counties in 4-6 weeks time.


Renamed streets: Janet suggested this site for Glasgow street names; Andrew drew my attention to a page on the GENUKI site which links to other lists of London street names.



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. Permission is hereby granted to copy or republish this material provided it is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.