Newsletter - 20th June 2013
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 1 June
2013) 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.
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You've got little more than a week to save 10% on a new findmypast.co.uk subscription AND get a free LostCousins subscription. You'll find full details of the offer here - please make sure you read all of the instructions carefully before you start. The offer ends on 30th June.
The Imperial War Museum and BrightSolid (owners of findmypast) are working together on Lives of the First World War, a massive venture that aims to bring together information and images for as many as possible of the more than 8 million men and women from Britain and the Commonwealth who served in uniform or worked on the home front. There's a short video that will give you an idea of how it will work - I was really impressed by what I saw.
But it's not just about records held in archives - the idea is to supplement the official records with digital images of the letters, photographs and other mementoes from the 1914-18 period that are held by families (there will even be an opportunity to post unverified stories that have been passed down, although they must be identified as such). See the FAQs for more details of how you can be involved.
Not that long ago there were no parish registers viewable online - at best you might find transcriptions, but these usually didnít include all of the information. However over the past few years more and more archives have been making the registers in their collection available online, usually in co-operation with Ancestry or findmypast.
The latest county in Ancestry's collection is Surrey:
There are about 2.7 million entries in all, including the baptism of my great-great-great grandmother.
Findmypast have added browsable images of Lincolnshire parish registers from 1538-1911 (there are 103 parishes in the collection). If you don't have a findmypast subscription you can also view many of the registers at the free Lincstothepast website, although it's not the easiest of sites to navigate.
Of course, what family historians with Lincolnshire connections will be waiting for is indexed transcripts of the records - hopefully they'll be appearing on the findmypast website in the near future.
Already this month I've received two emails from members whose online trees have been corrupted, and I am concerned this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
John wrote about his Ancestry tree: "I've just discovered that no fewer than seventeen (17) of the marriage details of my ancestors have disappeared from my tree, and those are [just] the ones I know of".
But it seems that such problems aren't unique to Ancestry - Bryan discovered that his Genes Reunited tree had been corrupted: "Thank you for your advice many months ago to store family tree data on my own system rather than rely on an online service. Perhaps another warning to your newsletter readers would be appropriate.... I was surprised to find that marriage data in my tree had been swapped for two direct ancestor couples, two generations apart.... I think this is unlikely to be a single error in my tree only and fear that extensive corruption of data/pointers may have taken place."
Have you noticed any problems with the data in your online tree becoming corrupted?
Note: Bryan didn't lose any data because he stores his family tree program on his own computer, using Genopro (which is also the program I use myself). Even before these recent revelations I would never entrust my data to a website - I feel much happier having it on my own computer. If you're looking for a family tree program the best advice I can give is to "try before you buy", because everyone has different needs.
Findmypast.com.au has signed a contract to publish all of the registered wills for New South Wales, the most populous Australian state, up to 1952. The official copies are handwritten from around 1800-1924, then typewritten for the period to 1952.
It is anticipated that the wills should be online before the end of this year, and I would expect them to be available to World subscribers at the UK site, although that has yet to be confirmed.
New South Wales has been in the news recently for another reason - a court there recently decided that† birth, marriage, and death registrations do not need to specify whether the individual is male or female. You'll find more information here.
In Canada the Statistics Act allows personal data from the censuses from 1901 to 2011 to be released once it is 92 years old, and earlier this year it was anticipated that the 1921 Census would be published on 1st June 2013, precisely 92 years after it was collected.
However, that didn't happen - although according to an article dated 4th June "Library and Archives Canada is committed to making the 1921 Censusí rich and complex information accessible and available to all Canadians, no matter where they live, in the next few weeks. Further details on the 1921 Censusí availability will be shared once they are available."
According to John Grenham, author of Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (now in its 4th edition) there is little chance that the 1926 Census of Ireland, the first to be carried out after the Irish Free State was established in 1922, will be released before the statutory 100-year period expires in 2027.
Previously the campaign for early release seemed to be gaining ground - only now is the determination of the Central Statistics Office to keep to the original schedule becoming clear. However it's worth bearing in mind that there are potential disadvantages for the family historians of the future in pressing for early release - members of the public may be less likely to participate in future censuses if they are concerned that their personal data could be released during their lifetime.
I've had John Grenham's masterwork on my shelves for many years (mine's only the 2nd edition) so when I discovered that genealogist, author, blogger and LostCousins member Chris Paton had written his own book on Irish research I decided to get hold of a copy, even though I don't - to the best of my knowledge - have any Irish ancestry.
I chose the Kindle version of Tracing Your Irish History on the Internet as it was virtually half the price of the paperback, although I read it on my computer screen so that I could more easily follow up the links (remember that you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books - you can get a free app for your PC or tablet).
Whilst the 19th century Irish censuses may not have survived, there are an amazing number of records that are not only available, but online - if only you know where to look. And that's precisely why this book is so invaluable - at less than the price of one BMD certificate it's a real bargain for anyone with Irish ancestry!
Tip: there are now over 12 million records in the Irish Petty Sessions Court Records collection at findmypast.
When I wrote about ScotlandsPlaces almost 3 years ago it was a totally free resource where you could view the farm horse tax rolls from 1797-98.
Kate wrote to tell me that the coverage has now expanded to include other tax records, including hearth tax rolls (1691-95), dog tax rolls (1797-98), shop tax rolls (1785-89), and many more - but sadly it's no longer free. On the plus side, you don't have to buy credits as you would at ScotlandsPeople - you can get an unlimited use 3 month subscription for £15. A subscription also allows you to view the Ordnance Survey Name Books for 18 counties - more will be coming online soon - and these sometimes give the names of occupiers or owners.
Tip: I've heard that some users of the ScotlandsPeople website who were having problems with Internet Explorer 10 were able to solve them by switching to Google Chrome.
In December the Prime Minister announced that the bravery of the veterans of these campaigns were to recognised, but it was only this month that LostCousins member Donna realised that as next-of-kin she could apply for her late father's medal.
You'll find more details and an application form here.
Next week I'm going to be in Westminster at an event run by the Social Research Association entitled The Census: Now and in the Future (many thanks to Debbie Kennett, author of DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century for tipping me off about this event).
It will be interesting to see whether the importance of the census to family historians comes up - and if it doesn't, you can be sure I'll do my best to put that right!
Perhaps inspired by the 2 million errors that other LostCousins members had already found in Ancestry's GRO indexes, when Brenda discovered that 2 marriage register pages for St John, Hoxton - part of the London Metropolitan Archives Collection at Ancestry - had been omitted, she decided to carry out a systematic check into the records.
The 2 pages originally identified became 14, and eventually there were hundreds of missing pages - in just a 25 year period. It's hard to believe that any checks were carried out on the data, so it has me worried that there might be similar gaps in some other parishes.
Brian wrote in to warn that in Ancestry's West Yorkshire collection the wrong parish is sometimes shown - but he also came up with a possible solution. Many of the images show a West Yorkshire Archive Services reference number which you can compare against the list of parishes in this PDF file.
In fairness I should remind you that everyone makes mistakes, including me - it's just that Ancestry seems to make bigger boobs than anyone else.
One of the problems with Google ads is that you don't have much control over what adverts appear (which is why you won't have seen Google ads on the LostCousins website, even though we could do with the money!).
Last week Liz wrote to tell me that she had complained to findmypast about an advert on their website that she thought was completely inappropriate - it was for a company called TCS Exhumation Services, who specialise in 'rearranging' cemeteries.
I'm glad to say that she did get a very apologetic response from a member of findmypast's Customer Support Team, and when I checked the site today the Google ads had disappeared completely.
Well done, Liz!
Most people achieve immortality of a kind by passing on their genes to their offspring (who hopefully do the same) but the 2045 Initiative is aiming for a world in which human consciousness can be transferred from a living body to a machine.
Since scientists still can't decide precisely what consciousness is, it seems a little premature to envisage a scenario like that in the film Avatar - then again, when I saw Face Off a decade or so ago it seemed like complete science fiction, yet it has already become science fact.
But just for a moment, let's forget about what it would be like for us to live for ever, and imagine what it would be like if we could talk to our ancestors, and ask them some of the questions that we're currently struggling to answer. If you could ask three questions of your ancestors, who would you ask, and what would those questions be?
Note: ironically there will inevitably be some questions that we're in a better position to answer - thanks to DNA testing we can hope to answer some questions of paternity that our ancestors couldn't.
We tend to believe that our ancestors were honest citizens who always told the truth, even though the evidence often contradicts this. LostCousins member Peter wrote in recently with a fascinating tale:
"I had a breakthrough recently that was quite extraordinary.† My ggg-grandfather Charles Heald was from Wakefield.† He married in Hull in 1822.† When his daughter (my gg-grandmother) married he was listed as 'mariner, deceased'.† It was always a mystery.† But now I have found he was far from dead - he married again in Calcutta and named his two sons identically to the ones left behind in Hull (Charles Broadley Heald and Thomas George Heald). He turned out to be a master mariner and it seems he also spent time in Calcutta Prison for debt."
In the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine (July 2013) Peter Higginbotham writes about the new ITV series in which he was involved, and which tells of workhouse life using as examples the ancestors of five celebrities (including actress Felicity Kendal and author Barbara Taylor Bradford). There are two programmes in the series: the first is on Tuesday 25th June at 9pm, the second is a week later. You'll find more details if you follow this link.
There are now almost 7 million pages from the British Newspaper Archive at findmypast.co.uk following the addition of 31 new titles (you'll find a list of the new titles here).
If you have Full or World subscription to findmypast.co.uk you have unlimited access to this phenomenal collection (it would cost almost £80 a year to subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive directly).
This week many people in the UK were shocked to discover that the Care Quality Commission - the National Health Service regulator - had covered up a report that was critical of its own failure to spot problems at Furness General Hospital, where several babies had died. But if that wasn't bad enough, the CQC refused to name the personnel responsible because they had been advised by their lawyers that do so would contravene the Data Protection Act!
Fortunately, not only did the Health Secretary say that this was "completely unacceptable", the Information Commissioner - whose office is responsible for interpreting data protection legislation - told the BBC that senior managers could not "hide behind the Data Protection Act". (There's more information, including an interview with the Chief Executive of the CQC, on the BBC website.)
I'm sure you've found, as I have, that there's a tendency for all sorts of organisations to quote the Data Protection Act when they don't want to tell you something. For example, when I telephoned BT to ask who was behind the unwanted telephone marketing calls I was receiving they refused on the grounds that this information is protected by the Act. They soon changed their tune when I pointed out that the Act protects individuals, not businesses or other organisations - though I still didn't get the information I was after, because they then claimed that Ofcom, the regulator, wouldn't allow them to disclose it.
I can't see why any commercial organisation should be allowed to hide their identity - perhaps if Ofcom were to take a more pragmatic approach I wouldn't get so many phone calls about PPI claims?
Napoleon famously described England as a nation of shopkeepers, but these days it seems we do nothing but talk about the weather - and with some justification, considering that in the past 12 months we've experienced the coldest spring for half a century and the wettest summer for a century. And looking out the window right now it's clearly not getting any better!
It's not surprising that when English people get to my age they often dream of retirement in the sunshine - and whilst I don't imagine I'll ever be able to retire, I recently started wondering whether it might not be possible to work in a warmer climate for part of the year.
Here's the idea I came up with - genealogy holidays on the Algarve, the sunniest part of Portugal. Even in winter they have over 5 hours of sunshine per day on average, and in March and April they have more sunshine than London gets at the height of summer!
Also, at that time of year the temperature is about 17˚ Fahrenheit warmer on the Algarve than it is here in Essex, yet the price of accommodation, flights, and car hire are really low (provided you avoid the Easter period). The idea of spending a week or two in a warmer climate with fellow family historians sounds pretty good to me, just so long as there's an appropriate balance between sunshine and genealogy - no point sitting inside when it's glorious outside!
Would anybody reading this newsletter be interested, in principle? Email me to let me know (please title the email "Genealogy in the sunshine" so that I can file it separately from the hundreds of other emails I receive whenever a newsletter is published). What would be the factors that would affect your decision? Would you be able to bring a laptop or tablet, or would you need one to be provided? Would one week be long enough, or should it be two weeks (whatever the length of the course there would almost certainly be an opportunity for anyone who wanted to stay on longer to do so for a modest extra charge)?
If there's a good response from members I'll start making some detailed enquiries, although it might be too late to get anything organised for Spring 2014.
Note: talking of Napoleon, as I was at the beginning of this article, there was a page on the BBC website recently about the semaphore telegraphy system that provided a communications network across France that was only superseded by the arrival of the electric telegraph in the mid-19th century.
Some of the members who followed my recent recommendation to switch their mobile phone to GiffGaff (the provider who came out top in this year's Which? survey) have pointed out that I didn't highlight one of the key features - free calls between GiffGaff users. Mind you, since they've just doubled the number of minutes you get for £10 to 500, I'm not sure why anyone would need free calls on top!
For that £10 you also get unlimited texts and 1gb of mobile Internet access, which is far more than most people can use in a month (which is why I usually go for the £7.50 plan, which includes 200 minutes, unlimited texts, and 250mb of mobile Internet). Follow this link to get a free SIM AND £5 of free credit when you top-up for the first time.
It has been a while since I've come up with any supermarket tips, but this one will make up for that! I recently discovered Pepperidge Farm Soft Dark Chocolate Cookies, which look much like the expensive cookies they sell in coffee shops, but are a LOT cheaper, and absolutely delicious. Currently they are 74p off at Tesco, down from £2.49 to £1.75, which might sound a lot for 8 cookies, but just wait until you taste them! My wife and I sometimes split a cookie with our morning coffee, which not only halves the cost but also the calories. Coffee is on special offer too - I bought 8 packs of Tesco's decaffeinated ground coffee for £2 each (normally £2.39) when I was shopping yesterday evening, and as we get through a pack most weeks it's a useful saving.
By the way, if you're ever planning to order from Tesco online, you'll find Tesco ads on the LostCousins site. Click on the relevant advertisement before ordering your groceries, wine, clothing, or other goods and you'll be supporting LostCousins, but it won't cost you a penny more.
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
It won't be long now before the LostCousins forum opens to everyone - in the meantime if you've received an invitation from me I'd encourage you to register at the forum right away.There will be more invitations going out shortly - to the members with the highest Match Potential (shown on your My Summary page).
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
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