Newsletter - 21st August 2014
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The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 11th
August) 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.
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them).For your convenience, when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open (so that you donít lose your place in the newsletter) - if nothing seems to happen then you need to enable pop-ups in your browser or change the settings in your security software.
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!
This weekend both Ancestry.co.uk and LostCousins will be free - so it's a great opportunity to research your collateral lines and add extra relatives to your My Ancestors page so that you can connect with other researchers who are your 'lost cousins'. The Ancestry offer runs from Saturday to Monday, but the LostCousins offer starts now and runs right through until Tuesday!
Normally you'd need to be a LostCousins subscriber to contact someone new (ie someone in the New Contacts section of your My Ancestors page), but until midnight on Tuesday all members can contact people they've been matched with.
Tip: you don't need to get a reply before the offer ends - just make sure you click the Make Contact button while the offer is still running. And unlike many other sites, once you've made contact with someone at LostCousins you can continue to correspond with them whether or not you're a subscriber.
To make the most of this opportunity use Ancestry.co.uk over the weekend to identify your direct ancestors' extended families. I generally start from the 1841 Census and trace my ancestors' brothers, sisters, and cousins as they marry then have children and eventually grandchildren. For every relative recorded on the 1841 Census you're typically going to find 5 to 10 relatives in 1881 - but it can be more, because in the second half of the 19th century infant mortality was starting to fall.
You might think - what's the point of entering such distant relatives? But the fact is they're not really that distant - someone who shares your great-great grandparents is a 3rd cousin of yours; someone who shares your great-great-great grandparents is a 4th cousin. These are the most valuable cousins to find - sufficiently distant that you're unlikely to know of them, but sufficiently close that they share a significant chunk of your tree.
£1 offer continues at findmypast ENDS 31ST AUGUST
You can still get a one month subscription for a bargain price - see this article in the last newsletter for more details.
Right now there are only two websites that give the census references for the 1881 Scottish census, essential when you want to enter relatives from this census on your My Ancestors page.
Scotlandspeople is the official site, with more Scottish records than any other - many of which you won't find anywhere else. However it's pay-per-view only, which makes it an expensive way of collecting census information. It's also a little difficult to interpret the census references displayed (though you'll find a guide here on the LostCousins FAQs page).
But at Ancestry you can get the information free this weekend. There's only one thing to watch out for - the census references are somewhat scattered - you'll find the Enumeration district (ED) and page number in the Source citation, but the Registration number is only shown as part of the main transcription.
This week the Prime Minister announced that mothers' names will be added to marriage certificates following questions in Parliament, and a campaign on the petition site Change.org (definitely NOT a site that I would recommend to LostCousins members, I'm afraid, because like many tabloid newspapers it only presents one side of a story - and whilst comments are permitted you can only comment if you support the petition).
Ironically a petition which made exactly the same proposal on the Government's official e-petitions site had collected only 175 signatures by the time it closed in 2013. By contrast, Guy Etchell's petition to open the historic BMD registers to family historians has gained over 6,334 signatures (most of them from LostCousins members), over 36 times as many, though still not sufficient to prompt a debate in Parliament. If you haven't yet signed Guy's petition you can do so here. You'll need to be either a British citizen or a UK resident - however, you don't need to be a LostCousins member or even a family historian, so why not persuade your friends and family to sign?
Despite the sterling actions of my MP, Sir Alan Haselhurst, and other MPs who have written letters on behalf of LostCousins members, we still haven't achieved what we want - perhaps because it isn't perceived as an 'equality' issue, so hasn't attracted the attention of the PM.
Perhaps we should be pressing our argument on the grounds of racial equality? For virtually a decade family historians with Scottish ancestry have been able to view register entries online, whilst those of us with English or Welsh ancestors have had to put up with a system that was introduced three days before the world's first trunk railway line opened between Birmingham and Warrington. So much for progress.
Ironically, when civil registration was introduced in Scotland in 1855 (that's 159 years ago) mothers' names were on marriage certificates from day one!
We might not be able to view the GRO's registers online, but the marriage registers for the Royal Marines can now be viewed at findmypast. Covering the period 1813-1920, the beautiful colour scans contain over 18,000 records which you can search here.
It is estimated that 5,000 marriages a year take place in the small Scottish village of Gretna Green, close to the English border, even though the population of the village is only 2,700 (for comparison, there are only about 3,000 marriages a year in the neighbouring county of Cumbria, which has a population of around half a million)!
At one time couples from England and Wales would elope to Gretna Green to marry without their parents' permission, but the numbers fell sharply in 1977 when the age of consent was lowered to 18 (although at 16, it's still lower in Scotland).
You can read more about Gretna Green, past and present, in this BBC article.
My father married twice, his father married twice; my mother's father married twice, his father also married twice - but in each case their first wife died tragically young, so it was all above board - except, perhaps, in the case of my great-grandfather, who married his dead wife's sister 10 years before this was legalised in 1907.
Reading the autobiography of the actor David Tomlinson, best known - to me at least - for his role as George Banks in Mary Poppins, I discovered that he too remarried after his first wife died. In contrast his outwardly respectable solicitor father Clarence had two wives in parallel, living with one family in the week and the other at the weekend. Technically it wasn't bigamy, because he only married one of them, but it must have been just as complicated for him to manage - especially since he had 4 children by his wife and (according to the autobiography) 7 by his mistress 2 of whom were born before Clarence married, and 5 afterwards.
Note: there is a public tree at Ancestry which tells a slightly different tale - maybe somebody reading this knows which version is correct?
The double life of Clarence Tomlinson only became apparent when one of his sons, riding on a bus to Heathrow Airport, spotted his father sitting up in bed in a strange house, drinking a cup of tea. I wonder how many dark secrets have only been uncovered generations later by family historians like you and me?
Against all advice Clarence Tomlinson continued to drive until he was 93, despite writing off three cars including two Jaguars. He finally gave up only when he was prosecuted for driving without a licence, his GP having refused to certify that he was fit to drive.
But he seems to have been an exception amongst older drivers - in the UK there are 200 people aged 100 or over who still have driving licences, and some of them featured in a recent ITV documentary (available on itvplayer here). It's amazing how some people don't age as quickly as others - didn't I read somewhere that researching your family tree helps to stave off dementia, or is that just wishful thinking?
Fortunately by the time I'm 100 it will be irrelevant - cars will be driving themselves, and the concept of self-drive cars will probably seem as outdated then as the penny-farthing is now. Or the GRO, for that matter!
I may not get on with the GRO, but it seems our ancestors were better at getting on with Neanderthals: according to the latest research Neanderthals and modern humans living in Europe may have exchanged ideas and culture 40,000 years ago. Indeed, it seems that humans and Neanderthals could have co-existed in Europe for as long as 5,000 years, which is ten times as long as some previous estimates. You can find out more in this article on the National History Museum website.
The evidence suggests that Neanderthals in Europe died out around 39,000 years ago, probably because of climate change which resulted in colder and drier weather. Most present-day humans have about 2% Neanderthal genes, and some also carry genes from another early subspecies, the Denisovans.
Some DNA tests will indicate the proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan genes, but I suspect that because research in this field is so fast-moving, we might get very different answers in a few years' time.
I recently emailed thousands of readers of this newsletter who have yet to enter any relatives on their My Ancestors page, even though some of them had been members for 7 or 8 years. Those of you who have completed your My Ancestors page and connected with cousins you didn't know you had will probably be amazed that anyone would fail to take advantage of the uniquely accurate and safe system that LostCousins offers!
In the circumstances I thought it would be useful to list some of the common misconceptions in the hope that some of you reading this will take note and put matters right:
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The Advanced Search allows you to search specific newspapers or locations, to restrict your search to a period you choose, and to INCLUDE or EXCLUDE certain words. This last feature is very handy if you're looking for surnames that are also place names - for example, when searching for my Wells ancestors I can exclude mentions of Tunbridge Wells. I'd encourage you to try some free searches before making up your mind one way or the other.
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It's very difficult to select letters from the many wonderful submissions, but this one from Barbara to her great-great uncle is just that little bit different:
Dear Great-Great Uncle Robert,
Who would ever have believed that I would be writing to you today. I must tell you that I do so with very mixed emotions and no doubt you could be receiving this in the same frame of mind!! I am delighted to have 'found' you and wish I had known my grandfather as he would surely have been able to regale me with information and memories of you his Uncle. It has only been thanks to all the dedicated transcribers of records that I am now able to send this letter.
From the records that I have viewed I can see that you could break the rules sometimes and as their only living son I bet you caused your parents a few sleepless nights especially your Mother, who never saw her other 'boys' live for very long.
You and I also have different kind of link and as far as I know it is exclusive to us. Eczema, I am told, is genetic. When I had a severe bout of it the origins were unknown, no one anywhere in the family suffered from it, then I found you and the link was there. We even both had attacks when in a foreign country! How uncanny is that?
My great sadness is that your life was cut so short, that you died without anyone knowing where and I wondered if anyone was able to even visit the memorial to see your name carved in memory of you and all you sacrificed for this country and the possibility of my existence. Dear Uncle Robert, it is with you in mind that I will be setting a light in my window on 4th of August at 10 pm, as many others will be doing for the memory of their loved ones.
I have also planned a trip to the area of your last known position before you were reported 'missing presumed dead' how your Mother and Father must have grieved their loss, the one son to survive in life. I will leave flowers and a blessing for you, a memory sent from your Mother and a thank you from me for all you gave this country and our family.
I hope this letter reaches you and that one day I might hear from you in return, in joy and sadness in equal measure,
With love from the future,
Your great-great niece,
WW1 PoW records: follow-up
The news about the Red Cross records came through just as I was finalising the last newsletter, so I didn't have an opportunity to research them thoroughly.
Fortunately there are a number of people who read this newsletter who know a lot more than I do about military records, and I received this very helpful email from the author, researcher, and speaker Simon Fowler - who worked at the National Archives for nearly 30 years, and did a PhD on charities and the First World War:
"Excellent newsletter as always.
"However I think you are a little harsh about the ICRC material. They are actually quite informative but not in the way the ICRC probably intended. For POWs they list the camps they were in: information which is not possible to obtain from other sources.† There are also Red Cross reports on the camps themselves, but only in French or German. However the really important records relate to men missing in action, because the British Army sent Geneva details of men who were reported as being missing. The vast majority of whom have no known grave (and are commemorated on the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot and Thiepval memorials). The ICRC cards contain details of many of these soldiers, together with details of the units they served in, including the company they were with, which can make it easy to work exactly why and when they went missing in the war diaries."
Simon Fowler's book Tracing your First World War Ancestors might be of interest to some of you, although because it was published over a year ago it's inevitably not bang up to date with what's online - that's always going to be a problem with printed books.
I also received some valuable feedback from Alan, whose father-in-law was a PoW in WW1. He provided these two useful links for help on searching, then reading and understanding the cards: ICRC, The Long Long Trail. He also followed up with some tips based on his own experience:
"The more information about the individual the better e.g. Full name, place of birth, regimental number, regiment served with, home address and likely next of kin the better as some or all of this is contained in the PA series of PoW camp records. The thing to remember is do not be dismayed if it is not possible to find anything initially as some surnames have been grouped into regiments, if not found here look under the name only or other regiments.
"Tip: if a search suggests (say 65) records they are NOT all the records of that name just the ones that have not been allocated to a regiment. Look at all records under that name - I found a record for my father-in-law under a different first name, all other details were the same. This was an error by the German PoW camp list compiler.
"A translation of PA series headers (first page of camp list) can be found here; I have many questions that I am still researching, e.g. why are there 3 dates entered on a camp list header page and what do they mean?"
Findmypast have launched a Hall of Heroes and will be making a £10 donation to the British Red Cross for each story they publish.
A lot of members have recently missed out on opportunities (or come close to doing so) because they have an extension for their browser which is designed to block adverts. Such programs stop many of the links in my newsletter from working - for example, one blocks links to findmypast and Genes Reunited.
These programs were useful many years ago, but these days online advertising is not as intrusive as it once was - provided you visit the right sort of sites. Indeed if you visit the wrong sort of sites adverts are the least of your worries - you need to worry about viruses, Trojans, and other malware.
My advice is not to use browser extensions unless they're absolutely essential - which most aren't.
Under 3rd September you can save an extra 30% on subscriptions to Your Family Tree and dozens of other Future magazines when you click here - this brings the price down to as little as £2.32 an issue, compared to the cover price of £5.25
Or get 5 issues of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine or many others, including Radio Times and Gardener's World for just £5 when you click here. This bargain offer only lasts until the end of the August and seems to be for UK addresses only.
As family historians we rely on the fact that most of our ancestors were baptised, married in church, and buried in the parish graveyard. But whilst the General Register Office still lives in the 19th century the rest of the country has changed, so much so that it has been forecast that by 2020 less than 5% of the population will attend church regularly.
Not long ago David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, was criticised by many and derided by others for describing Britain as a Christian country. But don't be fooled by the statistics that demonstrate how few of us go to church on a regular basis - that surely isn't what it's about? Surely what we're really talking about is Christian values (most of which are found in all religions).
The fact is, there are few countries in the world that espouse Christian values as we do in Britain. We continued to give overseas aid throughout the recession - knowing that, no matter how bad things might be for us, there were hundreds of millions who lacked food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medicines (all things most of us take for granted).
In Britain we value people for their contribution to our society, not for the colour of their skin, their parentage, whether they attend church on Sunday, how they dress, or how they vote. We care for our sick and for the aged.† We are capable of forgiveness, something that can be sorely lacking in some other parts of the world (Israel and Gaza spring to mind). We abolished the death penalty in 1965.
And yet, we sometimes adopt a different persona when we're on the Internet. We criticise people as if they were inanimate objects, not human beings, and we foolishly believe things that seem to fit our distorted view of the world, when a few minutes of research would demonstrate that they are malicious rumours spread by people who ought to know better.
You wouldn't believe some of the emails I receive from LostCousins members who have unthinkingly forwarded an email they've received to everyone in their address book. Or perhaps you would? Clearly these tracts written by manipulative bigots wouldn't be so widely circulated if a proportion of recipients didn't forward them on, and I wouldn't receive them unless some of them weren't LostCousins members, past or present.
You may not agree with everything I write in this newsletter, but you won't find me representing rumour as fact, or spreading malicious gossip. Please try to do the same in your own communications!
It has been a while since I've mentioned jam-making, and some of you may have wondered whether - after the fiasco with the fudge - I'd decided to stick to everyday cookery and leave preserves and confectionery to the WI.
Nothing could be further from the truth - in fact my Maslin pan was in action during July, turning the last of our rhubarb crop into some deliciously spicy Rhubarb & Ginger jam (it's the first time I've used grated root ginger), and making Blueberry & Orange jam (one of my favourites) with heavily discounted fruit from the supermarket. It'll be in use again shortly, as I picked up some more bargain price blueberries earlier this week - and next month it will be time for Wild Plum jam.
On Saturday I cooked a most delicious breakfast, adapted from a recipe I created when I was out in Portugal for Genealogy in the Sunshine. The English version starts with half a lightly-toasted bagel liberally spread with Philadelphia Light, and topped with a thin slice of really tasty home-cooked gammon; put this into the oven to keep warm whilst you make some lightly-cooked scrambled egg. I finish it off with a sprinkling of freshly-ground black pepper to create a dish that is extremely tasty, reasonably healthy, and makes a great start to a busy day!
When I was in Portugal I used local ham, and local country bread made with a sourdough starter rather than conventional yeast. Because the ham is uncooked it's slightly different in character, but every bit as delicious. I used to go to America regularly, and in those days Eggs Benedict was my all-time favourite breakfast - however I reckon my European version is just as good, and it's definitely much easier to make (as well as being far less unhealthy). Let me know what you think!
Staying with food for a moment, whilst we're not going to get as many wild plums as usual, this year has been a pretty good one for blackberries (even though they're not as abundant as last year, which was exceptional). When I was a child we went blackberry picking at Hainault Forest, and when we got home my mother would stew them with apple (we had a cooking apple tree in the garden). These days I'm very happy with stewed blackberries on their own - they have more flavour than I remember (and it's not often I can say that!).
From time to time I make mistakes in the newsletter - usually not errors of fact, but typing errors, which are not nearly so important, but nevertheless stick out like a sore thumb once they've been pointed out.
I believe it was Alexander Pope who first wrote that "To err is human, to forgive is divine", but sometimes a mistake can be unintentionally amusing. For example, I was reading the latest issue (Summer 2014) of Local History News, an excellent magazine published by the British Association for Local History, when I noticed this announcement in the supplement facing page 18:
As any reader of this newsletter will know, the 2015 event is being held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, not at London's Olympia. I normally wouldn't point out someone else's mistake (people in glass houses and all that) but when I saw the title of the article on the very next page I'm afraid I couldn't help laughing:
Unfortunately there's only one answer to that!
I'm not sure how long it's going to last, but Amazon are currently offering the Kindle Fire HD (7in colour screen, 8Gb memory) for just £89 - click here to see if the offer is still available.
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter - I hope you find it useful.
© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver
You MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - I have included bookmarks so you can link to a specific article: right-click on the relevant entry in the table of contents at the beginning of this newsletter to copy the link. But why not invite them to join instead?