Newsletter - 29th May 2014
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 7th
May) click here, for an index to articles
from 2009-10 click here, for
a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a
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For many years Ancestry have had a collection of army personnel files dating from WW1, but as around 60% of the files were destroyed by Nazi bombing in 1940 I wasn't surprised to find that my paternal grandfather's records were missing. (You can read more about the WO 363/364 record collections on the National Archives website.)
However, when findmypast recently released their version of the collection it included nearly 600,000 additional names. Some were taken from casualty lists, but there were also complete personnel files which had never been published online before - including the records for my grandfather that I had previously believed to be lost! I now know far more about his war service than ever before, and have discovered that he received a provisional pension for a year after discharge (some problem with his knee that I'm struggling to decipher).
It's a great discovery - but what a shame I was unable to find these records before my father died 3 years ago...... perhaps you'll make a similar discovery before it's too late? You can search all 4.2 million records here.
Note: the BBC, in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum, has started out on a nationwide roadshow to give people hands on experience of life in the Great War and to help them discover the role their ancestors may have played. But I wonder how realistic it can be - will they be digging trenches, for example? There's a video clip here that will give you an idea of what it's about.
In the last issue I challenged you to find out who Lewis Lister Peckett married in 1872 - and whilst nearly everyone who wrote found the right person, very few used the technique that I'd recommend. These days so much is handed to us on a plate that it's easy to forget the basics; indeed, some newer researchers reading this may never have learned them.
I hope that after working through this tutorial you'll understand why, even though I have subscriptions to both Ancestry and findmypast, I sometimes choose to use the FreeBMD website to look up entries in the GRO indexes for England & Wales.
You probably know that whilst the surname of the spouse isn't shown in the indexes prior to 1912, it can usually be inferred from the list of other names on the same page of the register. This is because the GRO's marriage register pages look very much like the pages from church marriage registers, which I'm sure you'll have seen when looking through parish records.
The GRO indexes identify the precise register page (just as the census references you enter under My Ancestors identify a precise census page), so if you searched through all the indexes for a particular quarter you'd expect to find an equal number of men and women - usually 2 of each (but in earlier years there were 4 of each). Findmypast and Ancestry have done all the hard work, so that when we look up a marriage at their sites the names of the possible spouses are shown - most of the time. For example, if I look up my great-grandfather's 1864 marriage at findmypast, this is what I see:
Since I know from the census that his wife was called Emily (and not Mary Ann) I wouldn't need to buy the marriage certificate - although in this case I did, because I wanted to see what, if anything, it said about Emily's father.
When you have a subscription to Ancestry or findmypast it's natural to look up everything at that site - even if you can do it for nothing at another site. However there are good reasons why you might eschew your expensive subscription and instead look the record up at FreeBMD, which has also transcribed the GRO indexes (thanks to the efforts of volunteers, including many LostCousins members).
Here are the search results at FreeBMD (I looked for a John Calver marrying in 1864):
Note that registration district and page number are links; click on the district to find out which parishes were included (this will vary as boundaries changed). Click on the page number to see a list of the other entries on the same page of the register, ie:
Note that Emily Buxton's name isn't listed. FreeBMD transcribers don't make many mistakes - and those they do make are often corrected by other transcribers, since about half of the entries have been transcribed twice by different people.
What do you do in this situation? I know that John's wife was called Emily from the censuses. Clearly there's one name missing from the search results, and whilst I could go to Ancestry or findmypast there are good reasons to stay with FreeBMD, as you'll see in a moment.
The simplest solution is to search for all the Emilys who married in Thingoe registration district in the last quarter of 1864:
As it happens, one of those surnames stands out - because my grandfather's full name was Harry John BUXTON Calver - but let's assume that I didn't have a clue which was the correct Emily. I'd probably work my way through the list starting from the top, not least because the first two entries differ by only one digit from the '952' that I'm looking for.
Remember that by clicking on the page number I can see all the entries on that register page:
As you can see, there are 4 entries - and equal numbers of brides and grooms - so the chances are that Emily Barton's entry hasn't been mistranscribed. So next I'd click on the second entry:
Interesting - only one result, which certainly suggests that the page number has been mistranscribed. I can click on the spectacles icon to see the original image:
It would be hardly surprising if the page number had been transcribed, since the final digit is incomplete. I'd like to think that I'd have read it as a '2', not a '0', but I'm certainly not convinced that I would have done, especially if this was just one entry out of hundreds.
Tip: different websites have different copies of the indexes - findmypast has a much better copy of this page, so it's not surprising that their transcriber got it right. One of the reasons that there are many wrongly transcribed1920s marriage entries at Ancestry is because the transcribers were working from very poor copies. However, as you'll see in a moment, sometimes the† indexesthemselves are wrong.
By the way, if this all seems a bit longwinded, it's because I want to ensure that everyone reading this knows how to make the best use of FreeBMD - and why it can be advantageous to use FreeBMD even though you have a subscription to another site.
Now that you understand the principle, why not see if you can use it to find out who Lewis Lister Peckett married in 1872? Carrying out the search yourself will help you to remember the technique so that you can apply it when researching your own tree.
But whether or not you succeed, I'd encourage you to read the second half of this tutorial, which you'll find towards the end of the newsletter.
There are at least three ways to read this newsletter - on your computer screen, on a tablet, or on paper - and whilst you might think it's simply a matter of personal preference, you're likely to miss an awful lot if you rely on a print-out.
Why? Firstly, because I don't go into detail when there's a perfectly good online source I can direct readers to - this keeps the articles shorter and enables me to include more in each issue. Secondly, because many of the websites I write about have thousands (or millions) of pages, so it makes perfect sense for me to provide links that will take readers direct to the relevant page.
And finally, because most of the money that keeps the LostCousins website (and this newsletter) going comes from newsletter readers clicking on links. If, instead of clicking on a link, you do a Google search or use a bookmark there's no possibility that any subsequent purchase you make will benefit LostCousins.
By not printing the newsletter you'll be saving paper and ink - which helps the environment - and as all the newsletters since February 2009 are online, and will remain online indefinitely, it really isn't necessary. Should you have difficulty reading the newsletter on screen it's worth remembering that you can change the text size using the Zoom function in your browser, and the page size by resizing the browser window - you can't easily achieve that with a printout!
Tip: if you disable cookies in your browser (they're usually enabled by default) then the websites you buy from won't have to pay any commission. That's good news for the big websites such as Ancestry, Amazon and findmypast that don't have to pay out - but very bad news for the small websites like FreeBMD, UKBMD, and LostCousins that rely on this income. So please don't disable cookies!
Ancestry have added nearly 2 million names taken from Land Tax records for the county of Surrey which date from 1780-1832 - you can search them here.
Other Surrey records added recently include 200,000 names from lists of Jury-qualified Freeholders and Copyholders covering the period 1696-1824, and - perhaps more interesting - nearly 65,000 Licensed Victuallers from 1785-1903.
In the last newsletter I wrote, somewhat jocularly, about the sale of titles including manorial Lordships - however, I perhaps should have taken the opportunity to mention how important manorial documents can be in tracing local and family history back to mediaeval times.
Although the National Archives does not have any manorial records online, they are in the process of compiling an online version of the Manorial Documents Register. It currently covers about half of England and all of Wales (another 10 English counties are in the process of being added). The register pinpoints the locations of manorial records, which often aren't in the local record office - as you may possibly have expected).
Merchant Seamen & Royal Naval Reserve
Ancestry.co.uk have added two indexes previously only available at the National Archives website: the first is to records of over 100,000 medals awarded to merchant seamen who served during World War 2 - you can search them here.
The second index is to the service records of over 130,000 members of the Royal Naval Reserve - you'll find it here.
Note: these are just indexes - images of the records themselves are currently only available through the National Archives site, at a cost of £3.30 each. The main advantage in having these indexes at Ancestry as well as at the National Archives is that it makes them more readily accessible.
Scotlandspeople have this week made available the wills of 26,000 Scottish soldiers who served in the Great War - for example on the right (image courtesy of the National Records of Scotland) you can see the will of Andrew Cox.
Andrew Cox was the uncle of Dundee-born actor Brian Cox CBE. The eighth child of Hugh Cox, a dock worker, and his wife Elizabeth he was a rope-worker before the war, and possibly also a reservist, as he was with the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, soon after the outbreak of war.
On 14 September 1914, around the time Andrew embarked for France, he made his will in favour of his mother, as many unmarried soldiers did. This meant Elizabeth Cox would receive his pay, a pension, and any savings and personal property.
On or before 18 March 1915 he was killed at the age of 22 in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle - but as so often happened, his body was never identified.
Scotlandspeople also has the wills of about 5,000 Scots who served in World War 2, and a small number for those who fought in the Korean War or took part in other operations between 1857-1964. It's free to search the wills, but it will cost you 10 credits or £2.50 to view a will.
In the past two newsletters I've written about vaccination and the records that have survived: however, I was quite surprised to hear from Laura that records of her great-great grandfather's admission to the Marine Society School in 1811 showed that he had already been vaccinated.
The surprise was because it was only in 1796 that Edward Jenner began his trials into vaccination, so Lorna's ancestor must have been one of the first to benefit from the discovery.
When I investigated further I discovered that vaccination wasn't the first solution to be proposed: as long ago as 1721 the practice of variolation - deliberately infecting people with a mild strain of smallpox - was introduced into Britain from Turkey by the wife of the British ambassador. However it was a risky procedure which sometimes resulted in the patient dying.
Note: you can read more about vaccination here on the Jenner Museum website.
Another email about vaccination came from Margaret, who told me that whilst she knew that her father's elder sibling had died as an infant, it wasn't until she discovered a letter insisting that the child be vaccinated that she had enough information to be able to track down the child. Margaret wrote:
"It was the only formal evidence there was that the baby had actually existed. As a result I was, years later, able to send for the death certificate of Joan Eileen who had died the day she was born at home in Bethnal Green in 1929. How my mother-in-law's heart must have ached on receiving this cold missive six months after her first baby had died at birth."
Even more horrific than smallpox, the Black Death - a form of plague - killed millions across Europe between 1347-51. However recent research (reported in this BBC News article) suggests that people lived longer after the Black Death than they had done before, with the effect continuing for several generations. A number of reasons have been suggested: one is that the plague was more likely to kill the weaker and less mobile members of society, but it could also be because the reduced population was better fed.
Lorna told me that when she was in contact with the Marine Society the archivist mentioned a book called Life in Nelson's Navy (by Dudley Page - not to be confused with the much shorter Kindle book with the same title). Lorna found it useful, and it's certainly got good reviews at Amazon - and when I checked just now there were second-hand copies available for just 1p (plus postage).
But the book that I can't wait to read is The Lost Empress, the new Jefferson Tayte genealogical mystery from Steve Robinson - however, it won't be out until October, though you can pre-order the Kindle version from Amazon.co.uk (in which case they won't charge you until the release date). At Amazon.com they're also accepting orders for the paperback, whereas at Ancestry.ca you can only pre-order the paperback - the Kindle version isn't even mentioned! Let's hope that in due course all versions are available in every territory, because I know how popular his first three books were with LostCousins members.
There are now over 8 million newspaper pages online at the British Newspaper Archive - the earliest are from 1710, the most recent from 1954.
Tip: it's now only £9.95 for a one month subscription - a third of what it used to cost - and the page limit has been removed!
The 140,000 records in the New South Wales Convict Database now include 20,000 entries relating to pardons. You can search the free index here.
Three weeks ago I received the following email from a new member who joined at the beginning of the month:
"Thank you for the newsletter - my first and it has provided me with the information to track down my Irish ancestors at last! I have only just joined Lost Cousins and already have corresponded with a cousin in Australia who I am going to be able to meet when she comes to Britain in August."
I can't guarantee that all new members are going to find a new cousin in Australia but I do know that, because she completed her My Ancestors page within a few days of joining, this new member thoroughly deserved her success.
Tip: if you've yet to complete your My Ancestors page check out the illustrated 'Getting Started' guides on the Help & Advice page. Remember that it's the 1881 Census that is most likely to link you to your living relatives, so enter everyone you can find in this year before turning your attention to other censuses.
One of the key visual reminders of the deprivation in late 19th century London comes from Charles Booth's map, which show the streets and tenement buildings of the city in different colours according to the level of deprivation. For example, black represents:
"the lowest class which consists of some occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals. Their life is the life of savages, with vicissitudes of extreme hardship and their only luxury is drink"
You can find out more about Booth's classifications here, but what I really wanted to tell you about is a new online version of Charles Booth's map which, though in beta test, can be viewed here. The fact that they it can be overlaid on modern day maps really brings home how much change there has been in some parts of the metropolis.
Note: some years after Booth's work another survey was carried out which was published in 1912 as 'Family life on a pound a week'; the book by Maud Pember Reeves is one of the most powerful works I have ever read. According to Amazon I bought my copy on 2nd January 2003, just months after I began to research my family tree - you can now pick up second-hand copies for as little as 1p (plus postage), so it's a bargain as well as an eye-opener.††††††††††††
The curious case of Mrs Peckett
Have you already found the answer to the puzzle I set in the last newsletter? I described the technique earlier in this issue, so I hope by now you'll have the answer.
Here's what you'd see if you searched for Lewis Lister Peckett's marriage at FreeBMD (Ancestry and findmypast give similar results):
Four entries (all shown in bold, which indicates that two separate transcribers have reached the same conclusion) - but three of them are male, and two of those are clearly the same person. Clearly one of the brides is missing.
We know that Mrs Peckett was called Mary Ann, so let's search for all the Mary Anns who married in Holbeck during that quarter:
Only three results, which makes our task easier - and the first entry is just one digit different, which makes it the favourite. More importantly, for this entry the name of the registration district is shown in italics, which indicates that the page number shown is not in the expected range for this district. However, it is shown in bold, so two separate transcribers have read it as 598.
To see what has gone wrong, click on the spectacles icon to view the original image:
Without a shadow of a doubt the page number has been printed as 598, not 398, so the mistake must have been made when the indexes were originally compiled 142 years ago.
Note: at FreeBMD you can't correct an error of this type - because the transcription is correct - but you can add a postem . However, PLEASE don't do it when I set a challenge in my newsletter as it can spoil things for everybody else!
Because of the location this particular puzzle could also have been solved by searching the West Yorkshire parish register collection at Ancestry, but of course most parish registers aren't online (and after 1837 some people chose to marry in the register office). FreeBMD covers the whole of England & Wales and includes non-conformist and register office marriages as well as those that took place in the parish church.
As you've seen, there are errors in the GRO's records - not just in the indexes, but also in the registers themselves. Some of you may have read A Comedy of Errors, or, The Marriage Records of England and Wales, 1837-1899 by Michael Whitfield Foster, who was offered unprecedented access to the GRO's microfilm copies of the registers in order to carry out his research. He found all sorts of errors and omissions, but the good news is that we can solve many of the problems using FreeBMD.
Until midnight on Friday you can save up to 91% on brand new books at The Book People. I had a quick look through the 300 books and sets on offer - the ones that stood out for me were the World Atlas of Wine (reduced from £75, the price of case, to £8, the price of a bottle); The Big Allotment Challenge which accompanies the TV series (£5, down from £20), and the Biggles Collection (15 books for just £10) - I enjoyed the books so much when I was a boy. Don't worry too much if you miss the deadline - I'm sure there will still be plenty of bargains!
A lot of people are laughing about the proposed self-driving cars that Google are planning to manufacture - but when you think how older people and those with disabilities could benefit I don't think it's a laughing matter. Of course, there will always be a few scaremongers who reckon that automated cars are dangerous - but when I consider that 90% of road accidents are the result of human error, it's pretty obvious to me which is going to be safest in practice. Automating cars is nothing new, by the way - the average new car already has about 50 microprocessors.
30th May: findmypast have just released over 4 million transcribed parish records for Devon - you can find out more here
I hope you've found some useful snippets in this edition - the next issue will be out in early June.
© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver
You MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - I have included bookmarks so you can link to a specific article: right-click on the relevant entry in the table of contents at the beginning of this newsletter to copy the link. But why not invite them to join?