Newsletter - May 30 2009




Get a free LostCousins subscription!

Too old? Think again….

Google may have the answer

Missing from the census? No problem!

Knock down 'brick walls' - a postscript

Using wildcards to search the censuses

How to save money with a joint subscription

New Zealand BMD - an update

Save £40 at the conference

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


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In the world of genealogy you have to trust people, so I'm going to trust you to play fair with me. We'll give you a free one-year subscription to LostCousins worth £10 (for an individual) or £12.50 (for a couple) if you visit the Which?Switch site (formerly Switch with Which?) and change to a cheaper gas or electricity supplier.


So long as you click on one of the links in this article we'll receive a commission which will cover the cost of your subscription, and help finance the improvements I'm planning for the LostCousins site. Apart from your free subscription, you'll also make a significant saving on your fuel bills - so it's a win-win opportunity!


To claim your free subscription just send me an email which states how much Which?Switch estimates you will save over the course of a year by switching, and confirming that you have filled in the online forms. To receive a joint subscription your account must be linked to the account of the other person (see the article below).


I'm afraid this offer is only available to members who live in Great Britain.



I may be only one-year away from my bus pass, but I certainly don't feel old. And if the letter in this month's Saga magazine is anything to go by, I could have many active decades to look forward to…..


Marilyn Framrose from Northumberland wrote in with many stories of "old" people she knows who simply ignore the calendar: her mother, who started an Open University course at the age of 70; the aunt who at 98 has only just given up baking cakes for "the old folk"; and her friend who at 90 was looking for a new challenge and decided to learn to swim - in an unheated outdoor pool - then went on to write three books before she eventually succumbed at the age of 104.


Truly an example to us all!



Nobody knows everything, least of all me. So when a member has a question I can't answer, I often use Google - frequently there's a site listed on the first page of results that either has the answer, or explains where to find it.


Have you tried the Timeline option? Carry out a normal Google search, then click Show options, which you'll see near the top left of the page. Choose Timeline, and the results will be sorted in chronological order - not perfectly, perhaps, but it's still a very handy feature. For example, if you search for "UK census" the timeline starts from 1801, and there are peaks at every census year thereafter. Try increasing the number of results per page to 100 (that's an option right at the bottom of the page) to see more years in the list; click on one of the dates to see more entries from that year.



Have you been unable to enter a direct ancestor on your My Ancestors page because they're missing from the 1881 Census? Don't worry about it!


Of course, we all want to list our direct ancestors - but in practice it's your other relatives who are most likely to provide the link to your living relatives. Why? Because there are so many more of them - for every direct ancestor who was alive in 1881 you can probably find 10 or 20 other relatives recorded on the census, and every single one of them is a potential link to a 'lost cousin'.


So whilst it would be nice to know where every ancestor was on census night, if you want to discover living relatives, it's best to focus on the many relatives who were recorded on the census, rather than fret about the few who are missing.



In the last newsletter I wrote about how we can often create our own 'brick walls' by failing to review the information we have sufficiently sceptically, or by making unwarranted assumptions. As an example I quoted couples who had married 30 or 40 years after having their first child - but subsequently I received an email from Val in Australia who told me about two of her ancestors who didn't marry until the bride was 65, and the groom 95, which must be a record of some kind!


Of course, when we read articles about how some people get things wrong, we tend to assume that it's other people that are being referred to - we don't make those sorts of mistakes, do we? That's a dangerous assumption in itself - because we all slip up somewhere (we're all human).


Ironically half the members who wrote to me about their 'brick walls' after the article appeared had not taken my article to heart. They'd failed to recognise where they had made unwarranted assumptions, or had taken information on trust, without verifying it. Sadly in some cases they'd also failed to take basic steps towards solving the problem, such as completing their My Ancestors page so that they could draw on the resources of their cousins amongst our 72,000 members.


If you seriously want to knock down those 'brick walls' you can't afford to cut corners - it takes diligence, determination, and perseverance. I know this only too well - because I have nearly 50 'brick walls' in my own family tree!



Whether because of transcription errors, mistakes by the enumerator, or householders who were simply illiterate - misspelled surnames can prove a real challenge when you're searching the census. A good place to start is my article Key Tips for Census Success, which you'll find on the Help & Advice page.


But I thought it would be useful to expand here on the use of wildcards when searching the census, as this usually resolves the majority of problems - yet because different sites implement wildcards in different ways, researchers often don't take full advantage of what is available.


At Ancestry there must be at least three characters BEFORE a wildcard symbol, which is fine if you're searching for a surname which has alternative endings, eg Thomson and Thompson - but not if you're also looking for Tompson. On the other hand, at FamilySearch you can't use wildcards at all…. though as an alternative, many common alternative versions are automatically included in the results (unless you tick the Exact spelling box, which I advise against).


In my opinion the best solution is found at; there it's only necessary to enter one character before the wildcard - and you also have the option of including common alternative spellings, simply by checking the Include variants box (obviously you can't use both at the same time!).


Actually there is a site that's even more flexible when it comes to wildcard searching: the 1911 Census site, where you can enter wildcards in any position, even at the beginning. As that site is also run by findmypast, I wonder whether they'll ever introduce this facility for their other censuses?


NB: as mentioned in the last newsletter, I can't get wildcard searching of censuses to work at Genes Reunited.



LostCousins is (almost) unique in offering a joint subscription for a couple, and whilst you may not be currently planning to buy a subscription it's a good idea to link your account to your spouse or partner now, so that you're ready when the time comes. Note: if you have been widowed, you can take out a joint subscription with a child or grandchild.


To link your account with that of your spouse, partner, child, or grandchild you'll need to know their personal code, which is shown on their My Summary page (it begins 'LC'). Now log-in to your own account, go to your My Details page, and enter your relative's personal code in the Joint Subscription section. (Whilst you're there, why not check that the other information on your My Details page is correct and complete?)



A lot of 'brick walls' have come tumbling down for LostCousins members in the months since I first wrote about New Zealand birth, marriage, and death indexes becoming available online. Although the exact date of the event isn't displayed in the search results, you can use a binary search to pin it down precisely. In fact, binary searching is a technique that's useful in many circumstances.


So what is a binary search? Let's suppose that you think of a number between 1 and 100, and I have to work what it is my making a guess, and you telling me whether the number is higher or lower. My best strategy is to guess 50, then 75 if you say your number's higher than 50 - or 25 if you say it's lower. Suppose your number is higher than 50, but less than 75 - my third guess would then be 62 or 63, and this 'splitting the difference' would continue until I deduced the correct answer.



The next British national conference is being hosted by the Halsted Trust at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham. 28-31 August 2009.  Entitled ‘Open the Door & Here are the People’, and taking on board the needs of both the current generation of researcher as well as those well-seasoned in their studies, the conference will cover a broad spectrum of subjects of interest to the family, local and social historian.  The conference has no single theme but instead is a celebration of local, social and family history.  There will be experts, information and celebrity speakers on subjects from buildings to immigration and the military to industrial Britain.


Speakers include military historian, broadcaster and author Richard Holmes; historians and authors Kate Williams and Sarah Wise; TV genealogist Nick Barratt; George Redmonds, leading authority on English surnames plus speakers from The Galleries of Justice, Institute for Name-Studies, King's College, London, The Library & Museum of Freemasonry, The Media Archive for Central England, The National Archives, National Maritime Museum, National Monuments Record, Parliamentary Archives, Royal Geographical Society,  The Royal Observatory, The Women’s Library and the Society of Genealogists.  You can also expect to hear from other top speakers from the family history world.


The conference cost of £369 includes en-suite accommodation, all meals, lectures, and entertainment. The day rate, cost of partial attendance, booking form, and full programme are available at


LostCousins members can save £40 on the full conference price (reducing it to £329) by going to the booking page, clicking on the special offer code tab, then entering LC123 into both the ‘user name’ and ‘password’ fields



When times are hard it's natural to want to cut back on unnecessary expenditure, like restaurant meals - so I was interested to discover that it's possible to eat out without paying through the nose for wine. At the Wines-Pages site there's a list of restaurants across the UK that allow diners to bring their own wine - and many of them don't even charge for corkage. I've only just discovered the site, and haven't had a chance to check it out yet - so let me know how you get on.


Another site that I've yet to try myself, but which comes highly recommended, is Freecycle - which provides a way for people to give away things they no longer want, and to acquire things they do want for nothing. There are nearly 500 local groups across the UK, and many more around the world.



This is where any updates or corrections will appear.


That's all for now - I hope you've found some of it relevant to you and your family tree. Please do keep sending in your comments and suggestions for future issues.

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


Copyright 2009 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd. Permission is hereby granted to copy or republish this material provided it is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.