Newsletter - 21 May 2010

 

 

The 1946 Family Census

British Library to digitise newspapers

Settlement Laws in 18th century England

Records of migration

Online will and probate indexes

London Transport's fascinating film archive

The Industrial Revolution - a new context

Hear the inventor of DNA fingerprinting

DNA analysis identifies WW1 soldier

"I'm a Neanderthal man"

Merchant seamen medals

In the limelight

Peter's tips

Have you tried....?

Stop Press

 

 

About this newsletter

The LostCousins newsletter is published twice a month on average, and all LostCousins members are notified by email when a new edition is available (unless they opt out). To access the previous newsletter (dated May 3, 2010) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; in due course there will be an online index to articles.

 

Whenever possible links are included to the websites mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). Note: when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open so that you donít lose your place in the newsletter.

 

Although the newsletters are hosted at LostCousins, they are not part of the main website. Click here to go to the main website and search for your living relatives.

 

The 1946 Family Census

It's only 7 years since the first England & Wales census became available online - yet we can now access as many as 8 censuses, from 1841-1911. The next census due for release will be the 1921 Census, in 2022 - but after that there will be a big gap, because the 1931 Census was destroyed in WW2, and there was no census taken in 1941. The 1951 Census isn't due for release until 2052, and that's one reason why there has been so much interest in the 1939 National Register, even though the information is very limited in scope.

 

I was surprised - and delighted - to discover recently that in 1946 there was a survey carried out which covered 10% of women in Great Britain who were or had been married. The information collected was as follows:

 

Marital Status

Date of birth

Date of marriage (and date of termination, if applicable)

Date of birth of every live born child

Number of children who had not yet reached their 16th birthday

Husband's occupation

 

The name of the individual was recorded on the reverse of the form. Whilst the names of the children were not given, in most cases it would be possible to identify them from their birthdates.

 

It appears that the original schedules have survived, and are held at the National Archives under RG67. Currently they are subject to 75-year closure, which means that we will have to wait until 2021 to see them - but you never know!

 

British Library to digitise newspapers

The British Library has one of the world's greatest collection of newspapers, covering over 52,000 local, national, and international titles. Over the next 10 years 40 million pages will be digitised and made available online through a partnership with brightsolid, the British company that owns findmypast and Genes Reunited, and at least 4 million pages will be made available in the first 2 years.

 

The best news is that the needs of family historians will be a priority - the announcement on the British Library website includes this paragraph:

 

"Digitised material will include extensive coverage of local, regional and national press across three and a half centuries. It will focus on specific geographic areas, along with periods such as the census years between 1841 and 1911. Additional categories will be developed looking at key events and themes such as the Crimean War, the Boer War and the suffragette movement. The aim will be to build a 'critical mass' of material for researchers - particularly in the fields of family history and genealogy."

 

Settlement Laws in 18th century England

The Poor Relief Act of 1662, commonly known as the Settlement Act, was enacted primarily to establish which parish was responsible for supporting a pauper. However, because one bad harvest or one piece of bad luck could bring poverty, most people were considered potential paupers, and were unable to settle in a new parish without permission.

 

If someone wished to move to a different parish, the main routes were to prove their wealth by renting a property for more than £10 a year (a substantial sum in those days), take a job that would last for at least a year, or else to obtain a Settlement Certificate from their home parish - which indemnified the new parish against any costs they might incur.

 

There's a brief summary of the Poor Law provisions here, but if you have the time to read it, this 1995 article from the Agricultural History Review provides an in-depth analysis of the way in which the law was exercised in practice.

 

The wide scope of the legislation means that most of us will have ancestors who were touched by it in some way (though whether the records will have survived is a different matter). Do check what records are held by the records offices you visit - you may make some surprising discoveries!

 

Records of migration

Migration within the British Isles is only likely to have been recorded if the Poor Laws were involved, in which case any surviving evidence is likely to be held by the local records office, but movements to and from other countries were more likely to have been recorded. The Regulators of Aliens Act 1793 required aliens who were already living in Britain to register with a local Justice of the Peace, whilst new arrivals were recorded at the ports of entry.

 

Unfortunately most of the early records have been destroyed; those that have survived can be found at the National Archives and at local records office. Ancestry has indexed 650,000 aliens from the records at the National Archives, and also digitised - but not transcribed or indexed - other records.

 

Also at Ancestry you will find Incoming Passenger Lists from 1878-1960; however these only cover ships that had called at ports outside Europe and the Mediterranean. A similar limitation applies to the Outgoing Passenger Lists, which are at findmypast, and cover the period from 1890-1960.

 

 

If you're not sure where your ancestors came from, or suspect that some of your relatives emigrated, but you don't know where they went, then the PublicProfiler site may come in useful - it will show you where in the world a specific surname is most likely to be found.

 

Online will and probate indexes

Amongst the excellent research guides at the National Archives website you'll find some very useful guides to wills; by far the biggest collection of online wills is at DocumentsOnline, where you can search (free) for pre-1858 wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and view them online at a fixed cost of £3.50 each. Another large collection of pre-1858 wills can be accessed free online through the National Library of Wales.

 

Sites with will indexes include Origins and findmypast. Findmypast also has an Index to Death Duty Registers, but it is indexed on at most the first three characters of the surname, and sometimes only one, which means you're likely to get lots of results that aren't relevant to you.

 

There are links to numerous online indexes of wills at the Your Archives site, which is hosted by the National Archives, but compiled by users: one which had previously passed me by is the Diocese of London Consistory Court Wills index at the London Metropolitan Archives website. Very few of my ancestors seem to have made wills, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered my great-great-great-great grandparents in this index. Why not see what you can find?

 

London Transport's fascinating film archive

As a child I was fascinated by trains and trolley buses, but sadly I was still a toddler when the last trams ran through the streets of London, and never saw them. Consequently I was delighted to discover that the London Transport Museum are making available films from their archive, and these can be seen free online when you click here (I hope you enjoy them as much as I did).

 

The tickets you can see were collected by LostCousins member Jo, and are from the New Cross Gate service. I bet she's not the only member to have souvenirs from that last week!

 

The Industrial Revolution - a new context

I recently finished reading The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective by Robert C Allen, in which the author identifies the primary reasons why the Industrial Revolution took place in Britain, and not elsewhere. His conclusion - supported by reams of statistics - is that high wages and cheap energy in Britain provided an incentive to automate that didn't exist in other countries.

 

By today's standards my ancestors lived in abject poverty - but it seems that compared to workers in other parts of Europe they were relatively well off.

 

Hear the inventor of DNA fingerprinting

Modern British inventors include Tim Berners-Lee, who devised the World-Wide Web - the part of the Internet that we genealogists use - and Alec Jeffreys, who invented DNA fingerprinting, the key to genetic genealogy (and much else besides). On Thursday May 20 Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys was scheduled to give a lecture at the Royal Society in London entitled Genetic fingerprinting and beyond, and from early next week it will be possible to see a recording of the lecture via royalsociety.tv

 

DNA analysis identifies WW1 soldier

Richard Dibben, a farmer in Dorset, recently discovered through DNA analysis that his great-uncle was one of 250 previously unidentified soldiers whose skeletons were found in a mass grave at Fromelles, in northern France. The body has now been reinterred and on July 19th, the 95th anniversary of his death, his family will visit the grave and take part in a service of dedication. For more details see this article from the Daily Mail.

 

"I'm a Neanderthal man"

40 years ago the record Neanderthal Man reached No.2 in the UK pop charts, though I suspect it was the catchy tune, rather than the rather banal lyrics that sent it to the top. However the chant "I'm a Neanderthal man" seems to have been remarkably prescient, because evidence has recently emerged that the human genome is between 1% and 4% Neanderthal.

 

You may have missed the announcement, because it was made on the evening of May 6th, when most of us in Britain were waiting for the election results. Gene sequencing has revealed that humans and Neanderthals share 99.5% of their genes (we share 98% with chimpanzees); but what it is particularly surprising about the latest finding is that humans and Neanderthals appear to have interbred between 45,000 and 80,000 years ago, something that had previously been ruled out.

 

The fact that it has been possible to sequence Neanderthal DNA that is 40,000 years old makes me wonder what genealogists of the future might be able to discover - though I also wonder how useful the information might be? After all, you would only have to go back 2,000 years to find someone who is the common ancestor of everyone reading this newsletter!

 

Everyone has their own reasons for researching their family tree, but what I find most interesting is learning about my ancestors' lives: not just their experiences and achievements, but also the sorrows and the hardships that they had to bear. What about you?

 

Merchant seamen medals

The National Archives has made available 155,000 merchant seamen's records via DocumentsOnline - they include World War 1 recipients of the British War Medal and the Mercantile Marine Medal. The equivalent World War 2 records have been available online for some time - indeed there are so many different records available through DocumentsOnline that it's well worth taking another look at what is available.

 

In the limelight

Have you ever wondered how the phrase "in the limelight" originated? These days leading stage performers are highlighted using electric spotlights, but in Victorian times theatres and music halls used limelights, in which a flame was used to heat to incandescence a cylinder of calcium oxide (commonly known as quicklime).

 

All sorts of devices have been used to provide lighting over the years. During the Second World War my mother worked for a company called Ship Carbon, which manufactured carbons for the arc lamps used in cinema projectors - but I imagine they were also utilised by the military. I grew up within sight of the Ship Carbon chimney, but the factory has long since been replaced by a housing estate.

 

When I got my first bicycle in 1956 it was second-hand (as most things were in those days), and must have dated back to the 1930s (it certainly wouldn't have looked out of place in an episode of Dad's Army). In my youth batteries were very expensive, and according to Boy's Own Paper - which was as valuable a source of information for me in those days as the Internet is today - the cost-saving alternative was a carbide lamp, in which water dripping onto calcium carbide generated acetylene gas. At one time these were found not only on bicycles, but also motor cars!

 

Another form of lighting that is largely outmoded is gas lighting - though I was surprised to discover that there are still as many as 1600 gas street lamps in London, mostly surrounding landmarks such as Buckingham Palace. Sadly you won't see lamplighters going round at dusk - since 1985 they have been controlled by light sensors and time clocks.

 

Peter's tips

Now that the price of certificates has gone up I'm looking for ways to avoid ordering them. Did you realise that you can often find birth dates in the death indexes? From 1969 onwards the England & Wales death indexes give the precise birth date of the deceased, which is very helpful indeed, especially if the person you're seeking is a female relative, and you're not sure who she married.

 

 

These days I can't afford to eat out very often, so it's handy to have some recipes for easily-cooked meals that are as good as you'd get in any restaurant. One of my favourites is Confit of Duck for which the main ingredient is a duck leg, and as these are a mere £2.50 for 2 from my favourite supermarket it makes a very economical gourmet meal. Salt them and cover them in duck or goose fat (if you have it, use cooking oil if you don't) and heat them slowly in the oven at 120 degrees for up to 5 hours. Finally remove them from the fat, sprinkle with sea salt crystals and heat in the oven at 220 degrees until crisp. Serve with garlic mash and the green vegetables of your choice - superb!

 

What makes this dish so convenient is that you can do the slow-cooking part in advance and keep them in the fridge in the fat for up to a week (or longer if you used duck or goose fat and they are completely covered). I generally cook four legs at a time, so with only two mouths to feed that's two meals taken care of.

 

Have you tried....

When you're entering information on an online form do you move from one box to the next using the mouse? You'll usually find that it's much quicker to use the tab key, since you don't have to keep picking up the mouse and putting it down again. It'll certainly save you time when you're entering relatives on your My Ancestors page, but it should work at most other sites too.

 

Stop Press

I've just heard that the 1901 Census of Ireland is due to be released online on June 3rd.

 

That's all for now - I hope you've found some of the articles relevant to you and your family tree.

 

If you want to show your appreciation then the best way of doing this would be to add an extra couple of households to your My Ancestors page (it only takes 1 or 2 minutes per household). Much as I enjoy receiving complimentary emails, the true measure of my success is the number of 'lost cousins' who make contact, and of course it's the data you provide that allows me to match you with your living relatives.

 

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

Copyright 2010 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated