- 14 July 2012
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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!
Findmypast have just released images of
the Kent parish registers held in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives, which have
been closed to visitors for several months.
For the very first time I've been able to see the
signatures of my great-great-great-great grandparents Thomas Smith and Mary Ratlief, who married at Swalecliffe
in 1784 - which has enabled me to confirm the very unusual spelling of her
surname, and also spot the marriage a year earlier of William Ratlief, who was a witness at my ancestor's wedding and so
was probably her brother.
Currently the registers are available
only as browsable images, but findmypast are
currently transcribing all the registers in the collection so that later this
year it will be possible to search them by name, in the same way as the other
parish records on their site (in the meantime it's also worth trying the new
FamilySearch site - see the article below).
to find out which parishes are included in the Canterbury Collection.
Earlier this week Ancestry.co.uk updated
the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry, which
now includes nearly 1.2 million records. Click here
to search the registry.
It's rumoured that Ancestry will be
launching a collection of Lancashire parish registers later this month. Click here
to see a list of the datasets that have been most recently added or updated
(the Lancashire information will be at the top of the list the moment it
Although in an ideal world the 'old'
FamilySearch site would have been left online indefinitely, there is so much
more data at the new site that it should prove to be a big step forward - once
we've unlearned some of the techniques that worked so well for us at the old
site, and discovered how to get the best out of the new one.
There are numerous video tutorials on
the new site, but I haven't - so far - found it necessary to look at them,
because the site is really simple to use once you get the hang of it.
Regular readers of this newsletter will
know how frequently I bang on about the importance of entering as little
information as possible on the Search form, whichever site you're using.
FamilySearch have made that rule easier to follow by presenting a very basic
search form with just two boxes, 'first names' and 'last names' (to enter any more
information you have to take the positive step of clicking on one of the blue
If the record you're looking for isn't
on the first page of search results you can filter the results, rather than
simply ploughing through page after page. If you haven't used filtering before
it will seem a little strange at first, but it's worth persevering - think of
it as a search within a search.
although you can search the IGI at the new site, the entries submitted by
individuals currently aren't included. However, since
well over 90% of individual entries were either duplications or complete tosh,
that's probably not a bad thing!
As I was finalising this newsletter I
noticed that the database most recently added to findmypast was a small, but
very interesting one. Between 1917 and 1925 over 11,000 operations were carried
out on soldiers who had been injured during the war by Dr Harold Gillies, who
developed the first skin-grafting and plastic surgery techniques. Click here for more details.
People's Collection Wales is a
government-sponsored website which has thousands of photographs from museums,
archives, or uploaded by individual users. If you have Welsh ancestry it's
worth taking a look - and I'd encourage you to contribute photos from your own
collection that might be of interest to others.
There are now over 700 Post Office
directories online at the National Library of Scotland's website. The earliest
dates from 1773, the most recent from 1911, and you can search each directory by
Back in 2010 when there were only 280
directories online the target was "over 600" directories, so it's
good to see that this target has been beaten.
According to Claire Santry's
Genealogy News, the General Register Office for Northern Ireland
(GRONI) is going to be putting its registers of births, marriages, and deaths
online. If all goes according to plan then at some point during 2013 it will be
possible to access births from 1864-1913, marriages from 1845-1938, and deaths
from 1864-1963 - all from the comfort on your own home.
As the equivalent
registers for Scotland are already online this will leave England & Wales
as the only countries in the UK not to offer online access.
accounts for the Identity & Passport Service, which includes the
General Register Office, reveal that the income from certificates sales fell
from £15.89m to £15.34m, a drop of between 3% and 4%. However they also
indicate that because of reduced costs there was an Operating Surplus of
£606,000 - which compares favourably with the deficit of £510,000 recorded in
the previous year.
The accounts also reveal that Sarah Rapson, the Chief Executive and Registrar General, who receives
a basic salary of between £110,000 and £114,999 per annum, waived the bonus of
£7,000 to which she was entitled for the 2011/12 financial year.
Unfortunately, even if the whole of Ms Rapson's bonus was used to subsidise the cost of
certificates, the price reduction would be less than 1p. Why don't you keep
your bonus, Sarah, and instead give us the online access we've been requesting
for years? You've just reminded
us that it's 175 years since the GRO was founded -
so isn't it about time the GRO was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st
Mail this week reported the story of a mother who gave birth to twins, one
of whom was born in England, the other in Scotland - that will certainly confuse
the family historians of the future! You can read all about it here.
I'm delighted to say that I've once
again persuaded findmypast to create an exclusive discount code for LostCousins
members. From Saturday 14th July until 11.59pm (London time) on Monday 30th
July you can save 10% on any new subscription to findmypast.co.uk (other
findmypast sites around the world are not taking part in this offer).
Follow the instructions below carefully,
because when you save 10% on a
findmypast subscription using the exclusive offer code, you can save 100% on a LostCousins subscription.
That's right - you can get a free LostCousins subscription that runs for the
same period as your new findmypast subscription, so the total saving could be
as much as £23.50!
note that the offers don't apply to renewals (which already benefit from findmypast's generous Loyalty Discount - see here for full details), nor can you combine
them with any other offers. But it needn't be the very first time that you've ever
had a findmypast subscription - if you are rejoining
findmypast after a break you'll still qualify (and you could well be amazed at
how much more you get for your money - there have been so many new datasets
added over the past couple of years).
During the offer period EVERY findmypast.co.uk
subscription, even the most expensive, costs less than £99. For around 27p a
day you can have unlimited access to ALL of findmypast's
UK databases with a 12 month Full subscription - and personally I wouldn't
settle for anything less than a Full subscription..
Here's how to take advantage of these
TWO great offers:
(1) Click here to go the findmypast.co.uk website (it will open in a
new tab or new browser window), then click Subscribe
and either register or log-in (if you have registered previously). Don't use a bookmark or type the website address because then you
won't qualify for a free LostCousins subscription.
(2) Now enter the exclusive offer code COUSINSJUL12 in the Promotional Code
box, and click Apply to display the
discounted offer prices:
Depending on the exact sequence of
events you may see a different screen - but the information will be the same. Just
make sure that the discounted prices are shown before you select your subscription.
(3) Choose the
subscription you prefer, bearing in mind that the 12 month subscriptions offer
by far the best value (the second six months is virtually half price!). I also
recommend the Full subscription unless you're an absolute beginner since the
numerous additional datasets are well worth the small additional cost.
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) A few minutes after purchasing your
subscription you will receive an email receipt from findmypast - please forward
a copy to me so that I can verify your entitlement to a LostCousins
subscription and implement it (it is not an automatic process). Your free
LostCousins subscription 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). You must claim your LostCousins
subscription before the end of July - late claims involve me in a lot of extra
work and cannot be accepted in future.
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 - because that
way they might be inspired to link up with their own 'lost cousins'.
There was a fantastic response to the
challenge I set in the newsletter before last, with around 100 members sending
in entries. Most entrants correctly identified the correct GRO birth entry -
but by no means all of them.
Because there were so many excellent
entries it was very difficult to pick only one winner, but after much
consideration (and several cups of coffee) it was decided that Karen had
submitted the best entry. I was impressed by the straightforward way she got to
the right answer, and she was also one of the few entrants to identify a
possible sibling who died as an infant - and so wasn't recorded in any of the
censuses. Karen will shortly be receiving a totally unique LostCousins T-shirt
printed with the surnames of some of her ancestors - just the thing to wear at
a family history event!
whilst it wasn't a factor in the decision, you might be interested to know that
Karen compiled her entry using only free searches, because she doesn't have any
I've decided not to publish the solution
in the newsletter, since this will prevent the same 'brick wall' being used as
an exercise for other researchers who are seeking to hone their skills. After
all, whilst there may have been 100 people who sent in entries, and perhaps 200
or more who tried and failed to find a solution, that still leaves 60,000
readers of this newsletter who haven't yet had a go (if youíre one of them,
for the original article).
Instead I'm going to email the solution
direct to all entrants, but give some general tips and hints here in the newsletter....
A month ago I offered a few general tips
on knocking down 'brick walls' and illustrated it with some examples from my
own tree (click here
to read the article again). This time I'm going to offer some specific
techniques that you'll find useful in your own research.
When you're up against a 'brick wall'
there are two key problems - one is that some of the information you already
have is likely to be wrong, the other is that it won't always be obvious which
clues are the ones that are going to lead you to the solution. Something that
appears insignificant (the name of a marriage witness, for example) might be a
vital clue, whereas something apparently vital (the name of the bride's father,
perhaps) might be a complete fabrication.
For example, when I posed the challenge
last month I presented it exactly as Marilyn had given it to me when she asked
for my help. Some of the information turned out to be irrelevant, and some of
it was downright misleading - but I deliberately left it all in because that's what it's like in the real world!
In this case I'd already solved the 'brick wall' before presenting it in my
newsletter - it wouldn't have been fair to set you a challenge without knowing
that it could be solved, and how it could be solved - but remember
that I didn't have anyone to tell me how to do it, or which bits of the jigsaw
puzzle had ended up in the wrong box, and
nor will you when you're tackling your own tree.
This means that all the information you
start with has to be regarded as questionable. I'm not just talking about the
stories that were handed down within the family - we all know that they're
likely to be wrong - but also about the apparently reliable evidence - the BMD certificates,
the military records, the census entries.
You also have to be careful not to make
unwarranted assumptions. It's not only the 'red herrings' in the evidence that
we have to watch out for, but also the traps we walk into of our own accord -
often because we assume that what works 95% of the time will work 100% of the
time. For example, when we search for a marriage we tend to assume that the
wife was using her maiden name - and yet she could have been a widow at the
time of the marriage (in which case she'd almost certainly have been using her
late husband's surname).
Another example: when we see people on
the census described as sons and daughters we tend to assume that they're the
children of the head of household and his or her spouse - yet that won't always
be the case. Sometimes the order in which they appear offers a clue, but that
won't always be the case.
One of the most difficult traps to avoid
is created when a widowed husband marries a woman who bears the same first name
as his late wife. Usually there will be a difference in the age or birthplace
shown on the census that provides a clue - but unless we're alert to the
possibility we may not put two and two together.
A common mistake is to assume that
everything has to be solved in chronological sequence. You might think, for example,
that you have to find out who your ancestor's parents
were before you can find out who her grandparents were - but that isn't always
Another time when lateral thinking comes
in handy is when you can find the answer - or part of the answer - by asking a
different question. For example, you might not be able to find your direct
ancestor's birth certificate - but maybe you can find her brother's birth
And following on from that last tip,
what if you can't find either certificate - doesn't that suggest there's
something strange going on? When something like that happens your next step
should be to run through all the possible scenarios - no matter how unlikely -
that might result in this lack of evidence.
Breaking down 'brick walls' requires not
only determination, but experience. Almost all of the people who tackled the
challenge I set last month learned something new that they could apply in their
own research, and that's why I'd urge anyone reading this who hasn't already
had a go to try it. After all, unless you can solve Marilyn's problem (which
you can do without any subscriptions, any credits, or any visits to records
offices), what chance will you have of solving your own 'brick walls', which
may well require you to spend hours hunched over a microfilm reader?
You might think that solving your own
'brick walls' is easier, because you have more knowledge of the circumstances
and may even have met some of the people in your youth - but it's hard to be
objective when you are personally involved, so†
it's actually far more difficult.
And yet, most 'brick walls' can be
knocked down if you are sufficiently determined, and have developed experience
through knocking down other 'brick walls'. Some people give up when they
discover that the evidence they were seeking doesn't exist but, since I'm sure you
don't want to be one of them, allow me to remind you that a lack of evidence
can be just as revealing as the evidence that you do find. I'm going to end
with a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious
At the end of Karen's winning entry she
wrote "It would be a great idea to have a regular brickwall
feature". I can't promise regular challenges, but I do have a second
challenge - and whether or not you were attempted the challenge I set a month
ago, I hope you'll have a go at this new one.
On 13th May 1880, at All Saints Church
in the parish of St Mary, Haggerston, Gifford Few - a builder aged 24 - married Emily Taylor aged
23. The groom's father was shown as William Few, gentleman, the bride's as George
Taylor, a builder.
Your challenge is to find the happy
couple on the 1881 Census, which was taken less than a year later, and convince
me that you've found the right census entry. The 1881 England & Wales
Census is available free at several sites - including findmypast, Ancestry, and
FamilySearch - so once again you don't need a subscription to solve this
Whilst there's no closing date for this
challenge, I will be picking the prize winner from the correct entries received
by Thursday 26th July - and in choosing the winner I'll be looking for the most
concise yet convincing solution. Once again the prize is a unique LostCousins
T-shirt bearing the surnames of up to 8 of your ancestors - just the thing to
wear at a family history event (no matter how old you are).
Over the past year or so I've had
numerous emails from worried members concerned about my welfare - and in each
case it was because the emails that announce a new edition of my newsletter had
In the past 4 weeks alone I have removed
38 members from my mailing list because their email accounts had been hacked.
How did I know this? Because I had received spam from their email addresses! When
they update their My Details page
with their new email address they'll automatically go back on the mailing list.
But there are also hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of member who are still on my mailing list but don't receive my emails
because they have a Freeserve, Orange, or Wanadoo addresses. For over a year those email providers
have been discarding most of the emails I send to members - and they don't even
have the decency to return them to me, or tell the recipients what they are
Finally, every month I lose contact with
between 200 and 300 members simply because they didn't update their My Details page when their email address
changed - and that's why, even though new members are joining every day, the
number on the mailing list for this newsletter is stubbornly stuck at just over
60,000. In most cases I can track them down should one of their cousins want to
get in touch using either the secondary email address they have provided or
their postal address - which is why your chances of hearing back from the
cousins you find is so much greater at LostCousins than at any other site. But
it would be so much easier for all concerned if the information was updated in
the first place!
if you're still using the temporary password you were issued with when you
joined, why not change it to one that you'll easily remember? That way you'll
be able to access your account even if your email address has changed.
Your Roots" in 2013
BBC Radio Scotland is seeking stories
for the next series of Digging Up Your Roots, which will be going out in January and
February of next year. If you have a family mystery you want solved or have a
burning question about the life of an ancestor then maybe their team of genealogists
Write to email@example.com if
you would like to contribute (and if you're chosen to be featured on the
programme, do please let me know!).
A LostCousins member (who I won't name)
recently visited the Probate Office in High Holborn. It wasn't her first visit,
but when she'd been previously the Probate Office was on the ground floor, with
a separate entrance - now it was on the 7th floor, and getting to it involved
going through exactly the same security checks as those who were attending the
As it happened she was in London on her
way back from a family visit, and like most people who have been away had a bag
of personal belongings with her - which included both a nail file and a
penknife which was a family heirloom. Both of these were confiscated, and she
was told that not only would be unable to collect them on her way out, she
would have to wait at least 4 weeks before a court would decide whether she
could have them back at all!
It turned out that there was - if one
knew to look for it - an online guide that warned about the restrictions. But
who would expect to be treated like a criminal or a terrorist when innocently researching
their family history?
Ironically the government department
responsible for this Kafkaesque approach is known as "Justice". It
makes me wonder - are we in 2012 or 1984?
A recent posting to the Society of
Genealogists mailing list caught my eye, not least because it was posted by a
LostCousins member who is a professional genealogist.
Rosemary pointed out that the London
Family History Centre in South Kensington (currently temporarily located at
TNA in Kew) has microfilm copies of wills from 1858-1925 - and you can view
them free (there may be a small charge if you want to take a copy home). What a
Can you imagine what it must be like to
be diagnosed with an incurable - and ultimately fatal disease? A few weeks ago
I met an incredible woman who, despite suffering from two incurable lung
diseases, has set herself a target that's as challenging as any of the Olympic
sports we'll be watching in a fortnight's time.
Her campaign, Save5, aims to recruit an extra 10,000
organ donors (so far 4,426 have signed up). On average 3 people in the UK die
each day whilst waiting for an organ transplant - simply because most of us
haven't bothered registering.
There aren't many people who wouldn't
accept an organ donation if it would save their
life - I know I would - and yet only 29% of us have offered to help others if
the roles were reversed. One reason is because people assume that they have to
be young and fit to qualify as a donor - but that simply isn't true. There is
no age limit, and the principal reason that organs can't be used has nothing to
do with age - it's because very few people die in the precise circumstances
which make organ donation feasible.
although you may carry one of the old Donor Cards, that doesn't mean you're on
the NHS database. You need to register under the new system to make sure that
your wishes are adhered to.
Until Tuesday 17th July you can get two
photo books for the price of one when you follow this link and enter the discount code NB241PB1 at the online checkout. Yes,
you could use photos of your last holiday, but it would be so much more
creative to use photos of your ancestors!
The interest rates on savings are so low
that I've been looking at a website called Zopa
which allows people to lend and borrow money without banks getting involved. If
you have used Zopa or any similar site, either as a lender or a borrower I'd be
interested to know how you got on.
Ancestry's new Terms
and Conditions have made it easier to get a refund when your subscription
is unexpectedly renewed - you now have up to 7 days after the renewal date.
However, the best way to avoid problems like this is to do what I do - I cancel
my subscription on the day it starts, instead of waiting until the ends. True,
I sometimes forget to renew - but, hey, when that happens I have more money in my bank account than
expected, not less!
Finally, an apology for any confusion I
caused when I wrote last month about Ovo Energy.
Prices vary across the country, so even though Ovo
offer the best deal where I live, they won't necessarily offer the best deal
where you are. That's why I suggested checking the Which?
Switch website first.
However, if after checking at Which? Switch you find that Ovo
IS the cheapest supplier where you live, I recommend you get in touch with me before getting a quote from them - it
could well be to your advantage!
This where any last
minute amendments will be recorded or highlighted.
I hope you've enjoyed this newsletter as
much as I've enjoyed writing it. I'm off now to make use of the
refrigerator-full of fresh fruit that I picked up at the supermarket earlier
this week at an amazing 85% discount. They slash the prices of food that's
about to go beyond its sell-by date at 7.30pm most nights, and this was a night
Blueberry Jam, Peaches preserved in
Brandy, Roasted Nectarines with Ginger and Brown Sugar.... Mmmm!
© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver
may link to this newsletter, and I have included bookmarks so you can - if you wish
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