Newsletter - 17th February 2014



Your chance to meet a real-life Princess

Findmypast slash prices, introduce monthly subs

1859: drug overdose kills 9 month-old child

The Great Flood of London

Fire at the National Archives in Kew

200,000 pages added at Welsh Newspapers Online

ScotlandsPeople release 1885 Valuation Rolls

West Yorkshire 1910 Tax Valuation online

Northern Ireland BMD registers online very soon

What's in a name?

Recycling in the 1940s

Lives of the First World War

"A Family in the Great War"

Help yourself - please!

Richard III's DNA to be sequenced

Human footprints from 800,000 years ago washed up

Modern BMD announcements

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 3 February) 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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Your chance to meet a real-life Princess

On Tuesday 11th March Princess Michael of Kent will be one of the speakers at the Literary Lunch held at Simpson's-in-the Strand which is organised by The Oldie magazine; Princess Michael will be speaking about her latest book, The Queen of Four Kingdoms.  As you can imagine, tickets for this event sold out almost immediately they went on sale in November, but as a result of a 'diary clash' my wife can't come, so I have a spare ticket that I'm going to give to a lucky LostCousins member.


Anyone can enter, and anyone can win - if you're not personally able to attend you can invite a cousin who lives closer to London to take your place. However, you should have someone in mind before entering as there won't be a lot of time between the closing date and the lunch.


To win all you need to do is tell me, in no more than 250 words, why finding 'lost cousins' is so important to you, and how the LostCousins system is better.


The winner will be the person who submits the entry that most impresses me. You've only got until 28th February, so get writing! You can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one in the email that told you about this newsletter, but please use the subject "Princess Michael Competition" to ensure that your entry is considered.


Note: entries, or extracts from entries, may be published in this newsletter or used by LostCousins for marketing purposes.


Also speaking at the lunch will be Peter Lewis, whose book Rogues Gallery is subtitled "Off the Record Encounters with Figures of Fame, Folly and Fun 1950-2000" - it sounds like great fun!


The third speaker is the 2nd Viscount Norwich, better known as John Julius Norwich. He'll be talking about his latest book, Darling Monster, a collection of letters written to him by his mother, Lady Diana Cooper, after he was evacuated (aged 10) at the start of World War 2. If you're lucky you may have heard extracts from the book on Radio 4 last year (Patricia Hodge and John Julius Norwich were the readers); I'm doubly luck because I've heard John Julius speak at a previous Literary Lunch.


Findmypast slash prices, introduce monthly subs

With just days to go to Who Do You Think You Are? Live, sponsored by arch-rivals Ancestry, findmypast have slashed their subscription prices, abolished their outdated Foundation subscription, and introduced a monthly subscription option.



By default subscriptions are renewed automatically, but whichever subscription you purchase you can cancel continual renewal at any time, simply by changing the setting in My Subscription (under the My Account tab). This means that if you want to subscribe for just one or two months it is really easy.


Personally I'll be sticking with the 12-month subscription, which works out 25% cheaper at £89.55 a year (or £116.55 for the World subscription) once the Loyalty Discount is taken into account - monthly subscribers don't qualify for this discount. But the introduction of the monthly subscription is still a significant move, which surely eliminates the need for credits, although for the time being they remain on sale.


Also, when you consider that all subscriptions include access to the fast-growing British Newspaper collection, which alone would cost £79.95 a year through the British Newspaper Archive, it really is quite a bargain!


BONUS OFFER: when you buy a NEW 12-month subscription to findmypast between now and the end of March you can earn yourself a free 12-month subscription to LostCousins worth up to £12.50


There's no need to use an offer code, but you must click here or on the link above to go to the findmypast site to make sure that we receive the commission that funds your subscription. To claim your free single or joint subscription simply send me a copy of your email receipt from findmypast showing the date and time of your purchase. Renewals do not qualify, nor can you qualify retrospectively.


Tip: if you are logged out at any time during the subscription process, or if you inadvertently enter the wrong credit card information, please start again from the beginning by clicking on the link otherwise we won't receive any commission and you won't qualify for a free subscription. Your LostCousins subscription will run for 12 months from the day you buy your findmypast subscription, so it is in your interests to forward the receipt promptly.


1859: drug overdose kills 9 month-old child

In December I wrote about Victorian Household Hazards, which prompted Mike to tell me about the sad events which led to the death of his 1st cousin three times removed in 1859.


As you'll see from this extract from the report in the Bradford Observer of 24th November, 1859 the failure of the pharmacist to properly train his 16 year-old assistant resulted in Oil of Bitter Almonds, which contains Prussic Acid - better known as Cyanide - being administered to 9 month-old Samuel Eamonson, who until then had been suffering from little more than a bad cough.


You can read the whole article when you register at the British Newspaper Archive and claim 15 free credits; it is also available free at findmypast if you have a Britain Full or World subscription.


The image shown is the copyright of the British Library Board, and has been reproduced with the kind permission of the British Newspaper Archive.


The Great Flood of London

The record levels of rain across most of Britain have created floods and threats of floods that are far worse than most people alive can remember.


I remember hearing about the 1953 floods as a child, and remember a couple of years later seeing a marker that indicated how high the flood waters came on the side of the Crooked House in Peter Pan's Playground at Southend (now Adventure Island).


But it was only recently that I discovered that in 1928, when the River Thames broke its banks, 14 Londoners drowned in their own homes, and thousands more were made homeless. Many streets in the slums were under 4 feet of water, and parts of the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London were flooded. Numerous valuable paintings were damaged or destroyed at the Tate Gallery, which overlooks the river. You can read more about what happened in 1928 in this article on the BBC website.


Despite the loss of life caused by the 1928 flood it wasn't until after the 1953 floods that a barrier on the Thames was proposed, and it wasn't built until 1982 (there's an article about the Thames Barrier here).


Note: if, like me, you have fond memories of Peter Pan's Playground at Southend you might be interested in the 1960's cine film footage I discovered on YouTube. You'll also find similar footage for other holiday resorts.


Fire at the National Archives in Kew

When there's so much water around it seems incredible that a fire could start in a water tower, but that's exactly what happened yesterday lunchtime, when a fire broke out at the National Archives in Kew.


Fortunately the fire, which started in two disused water towers on the site, didn't spread to the main building so the irreplaceable collection was not threatened, but as a precaution all visitors and staff were evacuated and the building was closed for the rest of the day (it is normally open until 5pm on Saturdays).


It's less than a year since the National Library of Wales was damaged by fire - and on that occasion some original records were destroyed (you can see a list here). Whilst digitising records does not protect them, it does protect us against the loss of the information they contain.


200,000 pages added at Welsh Newspapers Online

With the addition on 7th February of 200,000 pages from 27 new titles, there are now over 630,000 pages from 100 Welsh newspapers that can be viewed free at Welsh Newspapers Online. You can see a list of the newspapers and the periods covered here.


ScotlandsPeople release 1885 Valuation Rolls

Last week Scotlandspeople made available online the 1885 Valuation Rolls which give the names and addresses of 1.4 million people, and in many cases include their occupations. You'll find more information here.


West Yorkshire 1910 Tax Valuation online

Ancestry have recently made available over 600,000 records from the 1910 Valuation Office survey for the West Yorkshire area - you can search them here.


Tip: you'll find more information about these records, which were compiled for the whole of England & Wales, if you follow this link to the National Archives website.


Northern Ireland BMD registers online very soon

I mentioned some time ago that the General Register Office for Northern Ireland was proposing to make its historic BMD registers available online. According to an announcement on the Facebook page of the North of Ireland Family History Society the records are likely to be available from April at the latest - which will mean big savings for anyone with ancestors from Northern Ireland.


Meanwhile, those of us with English or Welsh ancestry must pay the inflated prices charged by the General Register Office in Southport.....


What's in a name?

Like most beginners, when I first started to research my family tree I believed that the spelling of surnames was important - that there was a right way and a wrong way (sometimes many wrong ways!).


I knew, of course, that many people were illiterate - even in 1851 only 55% of women could read and write, compared to 70% of men - but I somehow assumed that the vicars who recorded baptisms, being better educated, would get the spellings right.


Some hope! The very fact that the clergy were well-educated meant that they were often unfamiliar with the surnames and dialects of the parishes where they ministered. For example, in Suffolk, where my paternal line originates, my surname would have been pronounced "carver" - and that's how it is most often recorded prior to 1800.


Foreign surnames were particularly challenging: for example, whilst my great-great-great grandfather's German surname Kuehner was soon anglicised as Keehner, it's hard to find two examples of the same spelling. For example, in the baptism registers of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey the surname is recorded as Keenar in 1794, Kuehner in 1796, Kenah in 1798, Kehnir in 1801 and Kihner in 1803 and 1805.


Remember, I'm not talking about transcription errors - these are the different spellings in the handwritten registers.


Surname spellings are particularly problematical for overseas researchers who are struggling to trace the British origins of an ancestor - for example, if all you know is that they came from England, and roughly when they were born, it's tempting to simplify the problem by assuming that their name would have been spelled 'correctly' in the baptism register.


As if surnames weren't enough of a challenge, researchers also have to cope with forenames that appear out of nowhere, disappear without trace, change order or morph into something completely different. For example, last week Lynne in Australia was having trouble tracing a relative called Amelia who seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth after her marriage. I suggested that since neither Amelia nor her husband Walter could be found after their marriage in 1887, until Walter remarried in 1910, that they may have emigrated.


It turned out that I was right - they emigrated to Canada in 1890, and appear on the 1891 Canada census - but in each case Amelia's name was shown as Mellie, a contraction that is very rare in England prior to the 1891 Census, but becomes increasingly popular thereafter (does anyone know why?).


In the late 19th century it was becoming increasingly common for the children of ordinary people to have a middle name, and around this time you'll often find that people who don't have a middle name on their birth certificate invented a middle names for themselves. Sometimes people swapped the order of their forenames, sometimes they dropped one that they didn't like, and sometimes they exchanged one that they didn't like for one that they did. For example, you may recall me writing 4 years ago that on the 1911 Census my great-great uncle put his wife's middle name down as 'Voilet', a common misspelling of 'Violet' - though in fact her middle name wasn't Violet, but Elizabeth.


So, whilst middle names can sometimes help us identify the right entries, they can also be a hindrance!


Recycling in the 1940s

When I was a boy in the 1950s we didn't talk about recycling, but even though we didn't use the word there were certain items that we regularly recycled: for example, empty milk bottles were collected by the milkman, milk bottle tops went into a jar which - when full - helped to buy a guide dog, and the inedible parts of fruit and vegetables ended up on the compost heap.


Shoes and clothing were handed down, as were toys, bicycles, prams and anything to do with babies. My first pair of football boots dated from the 1930s (or even the 1920s), as did my first bike. Anything in good condition that couldn't be used by friends or family was donated to the church for the next jumble sale, whilst broken items were collected by the rag-and-bone man when he next came around with his horse and cart. In the 1960s my parents helped to organise newspaper recycling to raise money for the church, but when the price of paper fell the value of old newspapers declined almost to nothing.


We were frugal in those post-war years, but I recently discovered from a two-part BBC4 documentary entitled The Secret Life of Rubbish that a decade earlier recycling was an essential part of the war effort - in fact, in many ways it was much closer to recycling today. Unfortunately the programme is no longer available on BBC iPlayer, but it's worth looking out for if it comes around again.


Note: there are some lovely old posters here on the Advertising Archives website


Lives of the First World War

Although I mentioned this project, a joint venture between the Imperial War Museum and DC Thomson Family History (the parent company of findmypast), last June I felt was worth reminding you of this opportunity to share your family's experiences with others. You'll find a short explanatory video and other information here.


"A Family in the Great War"

One of my 'lost cousins' sent me this wonderful story, and I was delighted when he gave me permission to share it with you:


On the outbreak of war in 1914 my family was involved as were all others in the kingdom. There were four brothers of military age. Laurie the youngest was just 20' and he was among the first to respond to Kitchener’s call. Laurie went to France as a motorcycle despatch rider and later also drove Staff cars; he was awarded the Military Medal.


Historians tell us that in the course of the war there were at least four British Armies:


  1. Regular Army
  2. Territorial Army
  3. Kitchener’s Volunteer Army
  4. Conscripted Army


You can visualise the class distinctions at that time. R.C. Sherriff (who wrote the play “Journey’s End”) was not accepted as a potential officer because Kingston Grammar School, although founded by Queen Elizabeth I, was not a Public School.  He refused to join as a ranker and later on he was accepted for officer training.


The eldest brother, my father Harry, was 34 and although unmarried had considerable responsibilities because his father had died as a result of an accident at the age of 59 only the year before. He had the tailoring business in the City of London founded by his father to manage, as well an extended family to look after, so evidently did not feel he should rush to volunteer for military service. The two remaining brothers were John, 24 and Harold, 22 also did not volunteer.


In 1916 all changed. After the terrible losses in the battles of 1915 conscription of men up to the age of 40 was announced to be introduced for the first time in British history. However men who volunteered before being called up had some choice of service or regiment and Harry, having good contacts in the City, was able to join the Artists’ Rifles. This was a Territorial Army unit which was regarded as an Officers’ Training Unit because following the retreat from Mons in 1914, when the army was desperate to find officers, immediate commissions were granted to all ranks in the Artists’ Rifles. They must have been a suitably classy crowd who performed well.  My father, although from a grammar school like his brothers (it was acceptable by then), trained at Sandhurst and was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in December 1916 in a regular regiment, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. He took part in the battle of Cambrai (the first effective use of tanks), was in the battle zone on 21 March 1918, the opening day of the final German offensive when, he said, he lost everything in the fog and chaos, and then the final offensive led by the British and Dominion armies in 1918 which broke through the Hindenburg Line and brought the war to an end. Finally he spent six months with the Army of Occupation in Cologne.  He hated the French, Staff Officers and Lloyd George, not necessarily in that order and admired the Germans and Germany.


John, it is believed became an NCO and was posted to Palestine while Harold went to the Western Front.


Unlike some families, who suffered great loss, all four brothers returned to civilian life, in good health. Harry set up a tailoring business in the City, John joined his elder brother Fred who was exempted from military service, in business making and selling pharmaceutical and sanitary products. Laurie and Harold set up a motor business which prospered in the great expansion of motoring in the 1920’s  and ’30’s so that they had showrooms with workshops to  provide a full service for customers.


Following their experience both were so opposed to war that when war came again in 1939 they refused to take on any military contracts, for which their workshops would be most suitable so that by the time peace returned their business was in ruins.


© 2014 PEW


Note: the accompanying photo shows Harry in November 1918, just after the Armistice was signed.

Help yourself - please!

Last weekend I received a request from a LostCousins member who I won't embarrass by naming, but which started "I have an extensive family tree but would like your help...".


I have to say, this was a bit of a surprise to me, because the member concerned had only entered a handful of relatives on his My Ancestors page. In the circumstances there was only one answer I could give:


"Sorry, it simply wouldn't be fair to your cousins if I helped you. Whilst you have 'an extensive family tree' you've only entered 6 relatives on your My Ancestors page - this means that your cousins among the LostCousins membership have little or no chance of finding you.


"I long ago decided that, given the constraints on my time, it would be wrong for me to help members who haven't demonstrated their willingness to help their own cousins. By all means get in touch again when you've put matters right."


What I could have added was that by finding his 'lost cousins' he'd not only be helping them, he'd be helping himself. In fact he might not have needed my help if he'd done what he could to help himself and his cousins.


The simple facts are that if you spend an hour entering relatives from the 1881 Census on your My Ancestors page there's a better than even chance that you'll immediately be matched with a 'lost cousin'. Are your cousins worth an hour of your time? I jolly well hope so!


Richard III's DNA to be sequenced

When I first saw this headline my immediate reaction was "Haven't they done this already?". Then I remembered that the identification of King Richard's remains was based solely on the analysis of his mitochondrial DNA, the DNA which passes down the female line.


It's unlikely that this latest research will allow anyone to claim kin(g)ship - the aim is to discover some of his physical characteristics, such as hair and eye colour. The analysis is being carried out by Dr Turi King at Leicester University who carried out the original DNA analysis.


Human footprints from 800,000 years ago washed up

An unexpected by-product of the extreme weather was the discovery of prehistoric human footprints on the seashore at Happisburgh in Norfolk. Dating back 800,000 years they are said to be the earliest footprints to have been found outside of Africa. You can read more about this discovery in this article on the BBC website.


Modern BMD announcements

The free website iannounce has over 6 million family announcements published in the UK since 2008. Apart from announcements of births, marriages, and deaths you'll also find memorial notices, obituaries, anniversaries, engagements etc.


By the way, did you watch the documentary series about Westminster Register Office that I mentioned in the last newsletter? My wife and I found it very interesting. If you missed it, follow this link to the ITV website where the programmes are available to view online for the next 2 weeks.


Peter's Tips

Every January I look out for genuine bargains amongst the Christmas stocks at the supermarket. This year at Tesco I found 6 month matured Christmas puddings on sale for one-quarter of the original price - which, considering that they'll be 18 months matured by next Christmas (and still well within their 'use by' date) made them quite a bargain. True, a shop-bought pudding can't compete with home-made, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it difficult to find the time in the run-up to Christmas (and as you can imagine, I had to make even more compromises than usual this Christmas!).


As recently as last week I was still buying preserved fruits in syrup at £1.25 a jar, also one-quarter of the original price - the choices included Peaches in Brandy and Apricots in Amaretto. In truth there's hardly any brandy or amaretto, but they do come in very nice jars.


In the past I've used the jars for jam, but this year I discovered that they hold almost exactly half a bottle of wine - which is very handy if you don't want to drink a whole bottle in one sitting. To keep the wine as fresh as possible I pour half into a jar as soon as the bottle is opened, then put the jar in the fridge - and it works really well. In the past I've tried those rubber stoppers with vacuum pumps, but the simple method I've discovered not only works better, especially for red wine, it doesn't cost a penny!


The Financial Conduct Authority are hoping to encourage people to shop around before buying an annuity with their retirement fund - currently the majority of retirees take the easy way out, buying an annuity from the company that has been looking after their pension money, rather than shopping around. Four out of five would get a better deal if they did shop around - about 7% more on average, according to the FCA - and when you consider it will affect your income for the rest of your life, it really is one of those decisions that shouldn't be ignored.


It's also worth checking whether you can defer buying an annuity - this is an increasingly popular option now that interest rates are so low that all many annuity providers are doing is taking your money and handing a bit back to you each year.


For example, one big insurance company pays just £2700 a year to someone with a pension fund worth £50,000 who buys an annuity at age 65 - so you'd have to live for at least 18.5 years in order to get back more money than you have paid them. However, average life expectancy for a 65 year-old male is just 18.2 years according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics - and, of course, because of inflation the real value is going down all the time. Even if you bought the best annuity on the market you wouldn't be showing a profit until you were nearly 82.


This page on the HM Revenue & Customs website summarises what the options are. There are also numerous advisers who'll happily take your money for providing advice - one well-known site takes 1.5% of your pension pot, which is a large chunk of the extra 7% you can expect to get by shopping around. You can read a BBC report on the FCA's review of annuities here.


For the rest of the month the Society of Genealogists is offering a 10% discount on all of its books, whether you buy them online or in the society's bookshop (I generally buy mine at Who Do You Think you Are? Live since this saves the cost of postage). For a full list of publications follow this link.


Finally, I've been amazed by the number of positive comments I've received from members who have tried out the online photo repair service that I mentioned in my last newsletter. They're still offering to repair your first photo completely free of charge, but as I don't know how much longer that offer is going to last my advice is to submit your photo as soon as possible. Follow this link to register and find out just what they can do!


Stop Press

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


Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter - I hope you find some of the articles and tips useful. And if you do, don't tell me - tell the other researchers you're in contact with, and invite them to register free so that they get their own copy (and find some new cousins of their own)!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver


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