Newsletter - 30th July 2014



12 months for under £50 - the amazing Findmypast offer ENDS THURSDAY

Finding your way around the new site

WW1 remembrance database goes live

How one man's vision led to the creation of WWI's War Graves

Lives of the First World War: update

Did your WW1 hero wear a helmet?

The Wipers Times

Last chance to save 20% on photo restoration ENDS TUESDAY

British Newspaper Archive adds 1 million pages

Liverpool burials go missing

Letter to an ancestor

Did your ancestor work for Guinness? offer free DNA tests to new US subscribers

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


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12 months for under £50 - the amazing Findmypast offer NOW ENDED

There are only 2 days left - Wednesday and Thursday - to take advantage of the best offer I've ever seen.


For just £49.75 you can get a 12 month Britain subscription which gives unlimited access to all of findmypast's British records - that's HALF PRICE!


Click here to take advantage of this great opportunity (and by using that link you'll be supporting LostCousins at the same time).


The offer officially closed on Thursday 31st July - but it didn't end until the following Monday, so a I hope a few more readers took advantage of this bargain!


Note: Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales - but not Ireland. Findmypast has a separate Irish website and if you're quick you can take advantage of their 1 month for 1€ offer, which also officially ended on Thursday but was still available on Sunday (click here for details).


Finding your way around the new site

One of the best things about findmypast's new site is that there are many different ways to search - at one extreme you can search every record simultaneously, at the other you can search a single record set.


What's the best strategy? It depends how much you know about your ancestors, and how well you know your way around the records. Most of the time I search individual record sets, because this gives me the great control over the search - allowing me to maximise the chance of finding the records I want, whilst excluding the records that aren't relevant.


When you search an individual record set the search form is tailored to the information that you're likely to find in the records - in other words, the fields on the search form are a pretty good match for those in the records. That's what gives you the greatest control over the search.


However, when you search more widely, especially if you're searching different types of record, the search form can't possibly be a good match for all of them - it will necessarily be a compromise. My advice is to search individual records whenever you can, and whilst there may be occasions when you need to search more widely, once your search has identified the record sets of most interest try searching them individually.


To search an individual record set choose A-Z of record sets from the Search records dropdown menu (it's the last item in the list). Now start typing a word or number that you'd expect to find in the name of the record set, for example 'Staffordshire', 'Hertfordshire', 'Shropshire', or '1911' - by the time you get to the fourth character you'll see a list of record sets whose title includes those characters, and at this point you can select the one you want.


Occasionally the name of the record set may not be intuitively obvious: for example, there's a very useful collection of digitised and indexed parish registers which cover East Kent, but since the Canterbury Collection currently doesn't include Kent in the titles of its constituent records sets you do need to have some familiarity with the records. This is one instance in which you might start searching more widely, then focus in on the Canterbury records after they start showing up on search results.


Using filters to restrict the results displayed is a great way to make sense of a vast number of search results, but you need to be aware that this approach won't necessarily find the records you're looking for (because of the mismatch between the search form and the fields in the transcribed records). Whilst you'll often end up with the same results, sometimes you won't - and as family historians we can't afford to miss records relating to our ancestors.


Very occasionally it's worth starting your search from a form that has a keyword box (which the forms for individual record sets usually don't). Keywords will match any part of the transcribed record, and so can access parts of the record that other searches cannot reach. For example, if you're having problems finding your ancestor's burial - perhaps because the surname is such a common one or has been badly mangled by the vicar or the transcriber - you could try adding a word that might just be in the record, such as 'widow', 'carpenter', or 'son of john' (but bear in mind that different record sets have been transcribed in different ways, so this technique won't always work).


If you want to search (say) Berkshire Burial Index in this way the dedicated search form doesn't have a keywords field - instead choose Birth, marriage, death and parish records from the Search records dropdown menu, then filter for the Berkshire Burial Index (start typing 'Berkshire' in the Record set box and it will soon pop up as one of the options.


Tip: the most important thing to remember is that if you can't find a record you know to be there, it's time to review your search strategy - and if it keeps happening you definitely need to change your strategy!


WW1 remembrance database goes live

The Royal British Legion is working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to keep alive the memory of those who fell in the First World War. Every Man Remembered provides an opportunity to commemorate the sacrifice made by more than 1.1 million men.


You can enter a short message of up to 140 characters, upload up to 5 photos, and add a more detailed story of up to 3500 characters (about a page). It's hard to commemorate someone in a Twitter-sized message, especially someone you never met, but here's what I wrote for my great uncle Herbert, who died at Ypres in January 1916:


"Though you were my grandfather's brother he never spoke of you, not even to my dad.

 You were forgotten then but you are remembered now."


How one man's vision led to the creation of WWI's War Graves

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission came about because of one man's vision: too old to fight at 45, Fabian Ware became the commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross and - saddened by the number of casualties - wanted to find a way to ensure that the final resting places of those who gave their lives would not be lost forever.


Look as you hard as you like, but you're unlikely to find the gravestones of those who fell at Waterloo, or in the Crimea - in 1914 there were only handfuls of surviving British war graves despite all the conflicts of the preceding centuries. Yet, thanks to the efforts of Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, a schoolteacher and sometime journalist, by the end of the Great War the graves of hundreds of thousands of fallen soldiers were commemorated.


By the end of 1914, 16,200 officers and men were confirmed dead, there graves marked - if at all - with a wooden cross with a scribbled inscription, often in pencil. How Fabian Ware managed to change everything is described in Empires of the Dead: How One Man's Vision Led to the Creation of WWI's War Graves by David Crane, which I'm currently reading on my Kindle (it's also available as a hardback or paperback).


Lives of the First World War: update

I've written before about this website, which is a partnership between the Imperial War Museum and DC Thomson Family History. However there's been a big change since I last wrote: you can now claim a free subscription (normal price £6 a month or £50 a year) if you have an active paid annual subscription to; when your email invitation arrives it will include a special code. I received my invitation on 1st July, but I'm not sure what the schedule is for sending out invitations to newer subscribers.


Of course, much of the site is free, but if you are thinking of subscribing, it's worth pointing out that until Thursday you can buy a findmypast subscription for less - even though it includes hundreds of millions of additional records.


Did your WW1 hero wear a helmet?

As the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1 is fast approaching (or has just passed, if you are Serbian) I'm particular fortunate that my brother works for the Imperial War Museum. When we met up recently at a family gathering he asked me what seemed like an easy question: "What did British soldiers wear on their heads in World War 1?"


The obvious answer is helmets, because virtually all of the photographs I've seen show soldiers wearing steel helmets - often known as Brodie helmets after their inventor. But in fact the headgear they started out with provided virtually no protection - they wore cloth caps - and it was the French who first started experimenting with protective metal helmets.


In October 1915 questions were asked in Parliament about the issue of helmets to British soldiers, one of them referring to "those which are reported to have been found useful in protecting the French Army from rifle and shrapnel fire". You can see from this Hansard report that it was very early days, and a week later it was announced that "some thousands of helmets have already been issued", which suggests that only a small percentage of soldiers had been issued with them.


However, by early 1916 250,000 helmets had been issued - although ironically the number of head injuries recorded went up, because some of the soldiers who would previously been killed instantly were now surviving long enough to be treated.


I wonder if my great uncle was wearing a helmet when he was killed in January 1916?


The Wipers Times

Many of you will have heard of The Wipers Times, the first issue of which was published at Ypres just three  weeks after my great-uncle joined the ranks of the fallen in one of many battles that took place around this small Belgian town.


Masterminded by Captain F J Roberts of the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, The Wipers Times did a lot to boost morale at a difficult time.


Just 100 copies of Issue 1 were printed, and only 200 copies of Issue 2 so I was amazed to discover that in 2 weeks my local - but world-renowned - auction house Sworders will be auctioning a collection of Great War satirical newspapers which includes copies of Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3 and Issue 4 of The Wipers Times.


Other front line newspapers in the collection include The New Church Times, The Kemmel Times, The Somme Times, and The B.E.F. Times - in all there are 15 issues out of the 23 that were printed. All of these newspapers - other than but the first two issues of The Wipers Times - were printed on the same press, which was moved along the Western Front.


If, like me, you don't have £1500 to spare - there's always the 2013 facsimile edition, available on Amazon for just £6.99 in hardback (the Kindle version is even cheaper).


Last chance to save 20% on photo restoration ENDS TUESDAY

There's been a very good response to the offer I announced in my last newsletter, but I'm delighted to say that despite the flood of interest from LostCousins members Repixl are still aiming to turn around your photographs in 48 hours or less. This means that if you haven't yet tried them out, you can send off a couple of photos now, and still have time to submit another order before the 20% discount ends on Tuesday 5th August.


Whether your old photos are creased, marked, faded, torn, or have missing corners Repixl can make them as good as new. And if you have more recent photos that just didn't come out as well as you'd like, they can make them better than new!


To claim your exclusive discount go to your online shopping basket and type the code LOSTCOUSINS into the box - the prices will adjust to show the discount (and, provided you use one of the links above, LostCousins will also benefit).


Tip: your valuable prints won't leave your sight - simply scan them in (at the highest resolution your scanner supports) and upload them.


British Newspaper Archive adds 1 million pages

Since the beginning of the year, the British Newspaper Archive has added over 1 million pages, taking the total to 8.4 million. I know many readers took advantage of the £1 for 1 month subscription offer (I certainly did) but it's worth reminding you that the newspapers are also available through findmypast.


A 12 month subscription to the BNA would cost £79.95, which is good value for what's on offer - but when you can access most of the articles as part of a findmypast subscription costing under £50 it's certainly tempting to take the cheaper route, even though the BNA search is more powerful.


Liverpool burials go missing

Jane wrote to me recently to point out nearly a third of the entries on one page from the burial register of St Nicholas, Liverpool hadn't been transcribed by Ancestry - and when I looked at the page before and the page after it was clear that this wasn't a one-off, and in fact all the pages I checked from 1806 showed the same problem.


I only checked one page in 1805 and 1807, but they too showed the same problem - so my guess is that as many as one-third of the entries could be missing over a number of years.


Prior to 1813 when pre-printed registers were introduced there is a lot of variation in the way that different vicars wrote out entries, so it's not surprising that transcribers sometimes get it wrong. As someone who knows how difficult it is to transcribe other peoples' handwriting I don't blame transcribers for making mistakes, but neither Ancestry nor findmypast provides a simple way of reporting systematic errors of this nature - and that's something they both need to think about..


Letter to an ancestor

Thanks to everyone who has entered this competition - I know from reading your emails that you've found it to be a very useful process - and over the next couple of months I'm going to be sharing some of the best entries with members, starting with Gail's wonderful letter to her father:


Dear Father,


There are so many things I want like to say to you that I didn’t say when I had the chance. Of course, there are the obvious things we all want to say one more time to our loved ones who have passed on, like I love you and I wish you could have stayed longer. And thank you for the life and values you gave to me, for your hard work in providing for Mom and us children, and for the fun times you gave us too.


However, what I really want to express here is my most sincere apology. I am so sorry that, in my self-centeredness of youth, I did not get to know you better. I never asked the questions I should have asked about your early life, your “life-before-me”. Knowing only little snippets, I never realized until recently how difficult your life had been. Only after much searching, did I come to know that you had been sent away from the family you knew and loved at the tender age of 12, on a big ship, across an expansive ocean, to live in a foreign country with a vastly different climate and to live with strangers. It was almost 20 years after you passed on that I learned you were one of approximately 100,000 British Home Children. You left the big city of London, sailing alone in steerage (with only a purser to watch over you and the orphanage’s director in first class to escort you) on a steamship to a tiny town in rural New Brunswick, Canada. You were taken in by a childless couple to help work on the farm. I know you had to have been a small boy for your age, being described in your records as a delicate looking boy, deaf from adenoids, and because, though stout and physically strong, at 5’ 3½”, you never grew to be a very large man.


I also know that you saw much death in your early life. Your mother died when you were scarcely two; your step-mother died when you were nine; your paternal grandmother (who possibly helped to care for you when you had no mother) died when you were 11. Even your Canadian “foster mother” died a few years after you came to live in her home.


There are also many questions I want to ask you. What do you remember of life in London? What was the ocean trip like? Were you sick? Were you scared, or was it an exciting adventure? Was your foster family kind to you, or did they treat you cruelly and work you hard? Were you ever again in contact with your father in England?


There are also things I want to tell you, like how much I admire and think fondly of your amazing sense of humor. Surely it was the coping mechanism that got you through the hard times. I always remember and often repeat your famous jokes and one-liners! I also want to tell you about some of the things I discovered researching our family history. Your great-great-grandfather was a well-known ship-builder. He built some of the first steamships to ply the waters of the Thames. In 1824, he went on to be co-founder of a major shipping company in London, the General Steam Navigation Company, which continued to operate until 1966. As a sometimes maligned British Home Child, I know you would have liked to have known about your proud heritage!


                                                                     Your loving daughter,



I hope you found Gail's letter as uplifting as I did - thank you so much, Gail, for sharing it with us. I'd also like to thank Grant Kelly, of Vintage Photo and Frame Limited for giving permission to reproduce that photograph, which has been cropped from a larger photo of children at the Elinor Close Farm c1910.


You can find out more about Home Children, and Gail's quest for knowledge in a 2005 article from Ancestry magazine which is reproduced here on the British Home Children in Canada website.


Did your ancestor work for Guinness?

Guinness in Dublin hold records for around 20,000 workers who were employed in their Dublin brewery between the 1880s and the early 2000s. You can submit a search request here (many thanks to Colm, who was in Dublin recently, for this tip). offer free DNA tests to new US subscribers are offering free DNA tests (normally priced at $99) when you click here and take out a 6 month US Subscription that costs $99.


The DNA test is ONLY available to subscribers who live in the US, and the subscription only offers access to US records - so it probably won't be of interest to most readers of this newsletter, since you all have connections with the British Isles.


But many of us have friends or relatives in the US, so I thought I'd mention it anyway!


Note: the test is similar to the Family Finder test offered by Family Tree DNA - if you're technically-minded you'll find a comparison chart here. Although Ancestry have a much larger base of users, because they only offer the test to customers in the US the chance of making connections in Europe is probably smaller.  


Peter's Tips

If you've been reading what I've said about Zopa, the peer-to-peer lending company, over the past couple of years - but have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along, now could be the time! That's because after my discussion with Giles Andrews, the founder, they've decided to introduce a very generous offer: if I refer you, and you subsequently invest £2000 or more, we'll EACH get £50 added to our account (that's 2.5% of your investment, on top of the generous annual interest of between 4% and 5.2%).


In truth I don't know that I made any difference - they were probably planning it already - but since it happens to be exactly what I suggested I'm going to claim the credit anyway! However you must click the link in the previous paragraph, otherwise we'll both lose out.


Note: I'm not a financial adviser, nor do I have any ambition to become one, so this is just a friendly word of advice. Do make sure you read all the information, as I did when I stated investing in 2012 - and don't blame me in the unlikely event that it goes wrong (I'll probably lose a lot more than you anyway).


Long ago a LostCousins member recommended e-Rewards to me, and I've been using them ever since (whoever you were, thank you!). It's an online survey company which pays in points that can be converted into Avios (the new name for Air Miles), and I find that it's a great way to keep my Avios account alive and gently increasing.


Many of the best tips in this newsletter come from members - indeed it was a LostCousins member who recommended the free Irfanview graphics editor that I write about so often, and which saves me a fortune in ink that would otherwise be wasted.


The latest tip I've received (from Christine) is for a service called Zinio, which her local library offers (and so does mine). It provides over 100 magazines in a digital format so that you can read them anywhere - and best of all, it's completely free to library users.


I'm sure there must be some catch - because there are two weeklies and one monthly that I currently subscribe to, so Zinio has the potential to save me a lot of money - but I certainly can't figure out what it is. Why not check whether your library offers Zinio?


Stop Press

Good news - the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Office for National Statistics that the 2021 Census should not be scrapped. See the next newsletter for more details.


Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter - I hope you find it useful.


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver


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