Newsletter - 17th April 2014




Easter offer: save £5 at Genes Reunited ENDS MONDAY offer free access to 1901 & 1911 Censuses ENDS MONDAY

2021 Census still under threat?

Post-1858 wills to cost 66% more

Budget could lead to Ancestry price hike

Ancestry add Manchester non-conformist records

Top genealogist backs BMD petition

London Gazette site update causes problems

Findmypast's new site - mismanaged or misunderstood?

How to get the best from findmypast

Shropshire parish registers online soon

Land Registry publishes 1862 registers

Preserving property deeds

1841: when minors were miners

My ancestors were... not on the census!

Historical directories free online

Message in a bottle

Why did people fear the Victorian workhouse?

British Library's extensive World War 1 resources

Did your military ancestor have "distinguishing marks"?

British Newspaper Archive slashes cost of monthly subscription

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 5th April) 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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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!



Easter offer: save £5 at Genes Reunited ENDS MONDAY

From Good Friday 18th April until Easter Monday 22nd April you can save £5 on a 12 month Standard subscription to Genes Reunited when you click here and use the exclusive discount code SAVE5LC(in effect you're getting 12 months for the price of 6).


Note: this offer applies to new subscriptions only


A Standard subscription allows you to search for other Genes Reunited members who share your ancestors and connect with them - you also get 50 credits worth £5 that you can use to access the 550 million historic records including censuses, BMD indexes, military records, and more. offer free access to 1901 & 1911 Censuses ENDS MONDAY

Over the same period you can get free access to some of Ancestry's key datasets, including the 1901 and 1911 Census, WW1 military records, GRO indexes, and the National Probate Calendar - just click here.


2021 Census still under threat?

Perhaps naively, I assumed that the Government would routinely accept the recommendation of the National Statistician following the extensive consultation - but the all-party House of Commons Public Administration Committee clearly isn't so sure, because they've just published a report urging the Government not to scrap the traditional census.


One aspect they didn't pick up on was the way in which the Office of National Statistics has grossly underestimated the potential savings from switching to an online census - there's surely no way that it could cost nearly £1 billion, or more than £30 per household?


Note: in Scotland preparations for the 2021 Census are going ahead, as you can see here.


Post-1858 wills to cost 66% more

From Tuesday the cost of copy wills is going up from £6 to £10, a swingeing increase of 66%. However the Probate Service website still shows the old price - so I reckon that if you send in a postal application before Tuesday you should escape the price increase.


Budget could lead to Ancestry price hike

Changes in this year's UK budget could lead to increases in the cost of subscriptions and electronic books. Both Ancestry and Amazon have their European head offices in Luxembourg, where the rate of VAT for digital downloads is 15% (the rate for ebooks is only 3%), but changes proposed in the budget could lead to a uniform 20% rate being charged.


Fortunately most of the ebooks I recommend are very cheap, so in most cases any price increases will be pennies, not pounds. For example, the two excellent genealogical mysteries mentioned in my last newsletters, A Habit of Dying and The Marriage Certificate are £2.34 and 99p respectively at the moment.


Purchasers outside the EU won't be affected.


Ancestry add Manchester non-conformist records have this week added nearly 400,000 non-conformist records from the Manchester area; the links below will take you to the relevant search pages:


Manchester non-conformist births & baptisms 1758-1912

Manchester non-conformist marriages 1758-1937

Manchester non-conformist deaths & burials 1758-1987


Top genealogist backs BMD petition

After I mentioned in my last newsletter the petition to make historic BMD registers for England & Wales available online, the number of signatories more than doubled - but the target of 100,000 signatories is still a long, long way off.


Now top genealogist Else Churchill has given her backing in an article in the May 2014 issue of Your Family Tree. Else was not only one of the top speakers at Genealogy in the Sunshine last month, she's also the genealogist at the Society of Genealogists - and you can't get more prestigious than that!


Only UK residents and UK citizens can sign the petition but - and this is the good news - you don't have to be a family historian. If every family historian who signs the petition can persuade friends and members of their family to sign the target will soon be reached! You'll find the petition here.


London Gazette site update causes problems

Findmypast aren't the only people to cause consternation by changing their site - the London Gazette now has a new website which "has been digitally transformed, both inside and out, to deliver a more feature and functionality rich resource for all of its customers". Supposedly all of their articles have been recategorised, going right back to 1665 - but if you search for wills it only lists the last 10 years.


Nevertheless, once it's working properly it could make it easier for family historians to find the articles they're looking for - let's hope so!


Findmypast's new site - mismanaged or misunderstood?

There's little doubt that's transition to a new-style site with a new-style search was mismanaged - the fact that they've spent the past month fending off complaints and been forced to set up a feedback forum is testimony to that.


At the same time there's no doubt that the changes were made with the best of intentions - clearly they wouldn't have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in new systems if they didn't believe that they were creating a better site for users like you and me.


When the new site first launched I was, like many of you, extremely angry - and for a week I wouldn't use findmypast at all unless I couldn't avoid it. But then I remembered that I'd been through all this before - first when FamilySearch launched their new site, and then again when Ancestry introduced their new search. I realised then that, like it or not, I'd have to figure out how to get the best out of the new findmypast site - because otherwise I'd be letting you down.


The best way for me to learn was to research my own tree - so I picked on my East Kent ancestors. I'd done some research when findmypast first launched their indexed transcriptions of the Canterbury Cathedral Archives a year ago, but on the old site it was more difficult than it should have been to search for parish register entries - for example, you couldn't specify the name of a spouse or parent.


But the new site is very different - and whilst it took me a while to figure out how those differences could work to my advantage, it wasn't long before I'd broken down not one but TWO 'brick walls'!


I'd also found a possible link to a Canterbury carpenter who in 1570 charged 8 shillings for "11 joyned fformes ffor ye aldermenn to set on at the bulstak" - which, if confirmed, will make him the earliest ancestor on my tree so far.


Despite these successes I still don't consider myself an expert on the new site - which is, in any case, still evolving as findmypast implement suggestions made by users through the feedback forum - but I thought it would be useful to pass on some tips that I've picked up during my research......


How to get the best from findmypast

There were two ways of searching records at the old findmypast site - one was to navigate to a specific collection or record set, the other was to start with an All Records search. The problem with the All Records search was that the search form was very basic - so I hardly ever used it.


At the new site there are at least three levels of search: you can search All Records, you can search a particular record type (eg Census, land and surveys), or you can search a specific record set (eg 1841 Census). Each level offers a different search form - the most basic version is presented when you choose Search all records from the drop-down menu:



There aren't many occasions when I'd want to use a search form as basic as that, but I can imagine that for beginners it's less daunting. However, if you choose a specific record type from the dropdown menu you'll get a form with many more fields, for example:



The fields on this intermediate level form largely reflect the underlying data (whilst the year of death doesn't appear in any of the records it provides an upper bound so that you're not shown records that are irrelevant).


For the most detailed search form it's necessary to search a specific record set. For example, if you search the 1851 Census you'll be presented with this search form:



Note that you can search using the census references, by occupation, by parish - in fact by almost any combination of data (other than relationship to head of household). At the old site you could search using personal information, by address, or using census references - but you couldn't combine any two of those, let alone all three. This really does represent an improvement - I can remember how tedious it was looking at every house in a street trying to find the name I was looking for.


It's not perfect - findmypast still need to refine the address search - but then the old site wasn't perfect either. And I don't understand why you can specify another household member when you use the Census, land & surveys form, but not when you target a specific census - I suspect it's an oversight (or that it's work-in-progress).


Now let's look at parish records. If you choose Birth, marriage, death and parish records from the dropdown menu you'll be presented with this form:



The keywords field allows you to specify a mother's maiden name, a spouse's surname, or a parent's forename - but if you narrow down your search you'll be presented with additional fields which enable you to be more precise:



Notice that, because I've limited my search to births and baptisms, Mother's Maiden Name has been added to the form. If I go further, and restrict myself to baptisms in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives I get an even better form:



I could still suggest some improvements - I'm never satisfied - but I have to grudgingly admit that, so far as parish records are concerned, what's on offer at the new site already seems to be an improvement on the old site.


It's difficult for me to gauge how much of this functionality was available from launch (but hidden) and how much has been added since - but either way the site is proving a lot more capable than when I first tested it. My hope is that findmypast will continue to improve it so that it not only does what I want, but also what you want - which is why it's important to continue posting your comments on the feedback forum.


Tip: follow the link in the next article to find a specific record set.


Shropshire parish registers online soon

It's likely that before the end of April parish registers for Shropshire will be online at findmypast. Click here to search the A-Z index of record sets at findmypast.


Note: Shropshire Archives have new opening hours - you can see details here.


Land Registry publishes 1862 registers

The Land Registry has digitised and published online historic land registrations dating from the years following 1862, when the first Land Registry Act was passed. Registration was voluntary - and in most areas remained so until the end of the 20th century - so just under 2000 properties in England & Wales are recorded. Click here to search the records - unlike more modern records they are free.


I found an entry relating to property owned by The Right Honourable Lady Victoria Catherine Mary Pole Tylney Long Wellesley - her mother had been courted by the future King William IV, and was the richest woman in England before she married the Duke of Wellington's nephew, a dissolute spendthrift whose antics led the Chelmsford Chronicle to comment after his death that "the mockery of heraldry was never more displayed than in the case of this unworthy representative of the honour ofthe elder branch of the House of Wellesley".


The chances of finding a property that your ancestors owned is small, but you might learn something quite unexpected - as I did when researching Lady Victoria. It transpired that her parents had once owned a magnificent mansion just a few miles from where I grew up - but the enormous house at Wanstead Park was dismantled and sold to pay her father's debts. It is said that her mother's ghost still haunts the area....


Preserving property deeds

Now that it's compulsory to register property in England & Wales there's a risk that historic deeds will be destroyed, as LostCousins member Nicola relates:


"A few years back I decided that after over 20 years I had had all I could take of living and working in London and decided that I would move closer to my brother on the Lincolnshire coast.


"After a prolonged flirtation with my own version of DIY SOS, I put the house on the market. As it was London, and before the recession, the house quickly sold, and I soon found myself spending time with my solicitor, sorting out the sale. As we were talking she mentioned that the ownership of the house was now determined by an electronic register and that the deeds were no longer proof of ownership, so when the sale went through she said she would arrange for the deeds to be destroyed. I was horrified - the deeds are a historical document and should be preserved!


"As a family historian I felt sure that at some point in the future, someone could be looking for information about at least one of the people who had owned the house so I asked the solicitor if I could get the paper deeds when the sale was complete. Well - a couple of months later the sale completed and I became the custodian of the deeds of the first house I ever owned.


"I stayed with my brother until I found a new house so it was 3 months later when I completed on my new house.I was very quick to point out to the solicitor I was using for the purchase that I wanted the paper deeds for the property, and on completion I got my second set of deeds.


"Since I moved in they have been sitting in a cupboard most of the time, but, two weeks ago I wanted to check on the ownership of one of the fences on the property so I got out the deeds for my current house to see if it was referenced. Going through the deeds made me revisit what I should do with the deeds.They are probably not going to be a lot of interest to the family and unless I arrange something they will probably just be thrown out when I die. I decided it was time to establish where they should be lodged for future generations to view. I thought that this would probably be the nearest record offices to the properties but wasnít sure, so I asked Peter at Lost Cousins to see if he had any suggestions - and he came back with the same answer.


"A little hunting on the Internet was followed by emails to Lincolnshire County Council and Lewishamís Local Studies Group - and I now know where the deeds will be going. At this time it is my intention to bequeath the deeds to the relevant authority. I havenít put it in the will yet, but I have made sure that my next of kin knows - just in case. If I can scan all the documents, I may get the deeds to them sooner, but I couldnít bear to think of them being destroyed.


"Perhaps you could preserve your deeds for future generations too?"


1841: when minors were miners

The Children's Employment Commission reported in 1842 on the appalling conditions in which many children worked, and you may recall that in January I wrote about children in factories, and linked to a copy of the Appendix which included interviews with about 1500 children, all of whom were identified by name and age. I wonder if you found any of your relatives in that report?


An earlier report from the Royal Commission focused on children who worked in the mining industry. For example, George Wintle aged 10 had worked at the Parkend Coal Works for about a year and a half when he was interviewed in March 1841. He worked underground from 6am to 6pm with a half hour break for breakfast and one hour for a lunch of bread and cheese - for this he earned just 6 shillings a week (which was paid to his father). According to the 1841 Census his father and three older brothers were also miners.


In that particular colliery there were between 100 and 150 boys, some as young as 6 or 7. George wasn't the lowest paid by any means - some got just 7d a day (equivalent to £2.30 in today's money).


You'll find transcriptions of the investigations here - many thanks to Keith, who drew them to my attention, and to Lancashire historian Ian Winstanley, who transcribed them.


My ancestors were... not on the census!

We've all encountered this problem - someone who ought to be on the census simply isn't there. But now there's hope - Roy Stockdill, writer, lecturer, and experienced family historian has put together a list of 15 useful tips to help track down missing ancestors.


You can download them here from the website of Anguline Research Archives.


Note: Roy Stockdill is not only a Master Craftsman of the Guild of One-Name Studies, and a Trustee of the Society of Genealogists - he's also the commissioning editor for the popular "My Ancestors Were..." series of books.


Historical directories free online

For many years the Historical Directories site run by the University of Leicester has been one of the links on the My Links page at LostCousins, but the original site has closed - you'll now find the directories here, on the university's Special Collections Online website. There are 675 directories in all, covering most of England & Wales.


In Australia the city of Sydney has made available online digitised copies of the Sands Sydney, Suburban and Country Commercial Directory, which covers most years from 1858-1933 - you can search them here (thanks to Glenys for the tip).


Tip: if you subscribed to The Genealogist under the offer in my last newsletter it's worth noting that they have a collection of about 400 directories, including some from Scotland and the USA.


Message in a bottle

Last month fishermen in the Baltic recovered a bottle containing a message dated 1913, and asking for it to be forwarded to the author's address in Berlin. The writer of the message died in 1946, but researchers managed to track down his grand-daughter, who was born some years after his death.


You can read more in this article on the BBC website.


Why did people fear the Victorian workhouse?

On 12th May the National Archives there's a free webinar at 4pm which will be of interest to those whose ancestors ended up in the workhouse - or came close to it. There is limited capacity but there was space when I checked just now - you can sign up here.


Note: there's another TNA webinar on 11th June entitled " Tracing British battalions or regiments during the First World War" - you'll find more information here.


British Library's extensive World War 1 resources

The British Library has extensive online collection of information relating to World War 1, including more than 50 articles written by leading experts, photographs, maps, drawings, and teaching resources. You'll find them here.


Did your military ancestor have "distinguishing marks"?

I'd always thought that distinguishing marks in military records referred to scars, tattoos, and the like - but as you'll see from this book excerpt they were actually awards for good conduct!


(Thanks to LostCousins member Adrian for enlightening most of us on the SoG mailing list.)


British Newspaper Archive slashes cost of monthly subscription

Until recently it cost £29.95 to buy a one month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive - now the cost has been slashed to just £9.95 (with no limit on the number of pages you can view - previously there was a limit of 600 pages).


Most family historians will still find that a findmypast subscription offers better value - a monthly subscription is the same price - but the search at the BNA site offers more features and includes Ireland


Tip: all findmypast and British Newspaper Archive subscriptions are continuous - they'll be renewed automatically when they expire unless you change your account settings.


Peter's Tips

Lots of tips and offers this time - to make up for last issue!


Colin wrote to me earlier this year to tell me about his involvement as a member of the Royal Mail survey panel - now that the cost of stamps has gone up again the value of the book of stamps they send him each month has also increased! If it's something that might interest you, follow this link.


Note: although panellists are required in most areas, you could find that there aren't any vacancies where you live - so please don't be too disappointed if they turn you down.


Many of the attendees at Genealogy in the Sunshine last month flew on Ryanair, and were delighted to discover that they could now take a small extra bag on board, rather than having to cram their duty free purchases into their hand luggage. But I have to say, it's a long time since I've bought duty-free items when travelling within Europe - they might be cheaper than on the High Street but the prices simply aren't competitive in the Internet age. My favourite for perfumes and aftershave is AllBeauty (formerly known as Cheap Smells): if you click here you'll see some of the biggest savings currently on offer (some items are discounted by over 50%!), and there's also an extra saving of up to £10 if you buy over the Easter holiday weekend.


A lot of the technology tips I publish comes from Computer Shopper magazine, which I've subscribed to for many years. Until the end of April you can get a one-year subscription for just £27 when you click here (it's a lot less than I'm paying).


Over Easter you can save 10% on over 150 memory cards, USB memory sticks, portable hard drives and other devices at MyMemory when you click here and enter the offer code at the checkout. Or no offer codes, just very low prices (up to 90% off) at The Book People - I've just ordered the Forgotten Voices collection (£7.99 for 8 books with an RRP of almost £72) and am tempted by Battlefields of the Great War (£14.99 compared with the RRP of £50).


Finally, I heard today that GiffGaff have once again taken 1st place in the Which? magazine survey of mobile providers. I can't remember which LostCousins member recommended them to me a few years ago, but I'm certainly glad that they did!


Stop Press

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


Thanks for taking the time to read this newsletter - I hope you found it useful.


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver


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