Newsletter - 21 November 2010



You could play a key role in the last census

What should replace the census?

Where there's a will there's a wait

Origins adds Oxfordshire will index

Shropshire transcriptions free online

Knocking down 'brick walls'

Medical records: a sorry state of affairs

Do you have living relatives on the 1911 Census?

Scotlandspeople credits - update

Free access to Ancestry in New Zealand and Australia

Have you discovered the My Contact page?

Be careful when you share information

Suggestions for Santa

Find a cousin for Christmas

Department of corrections

Peter's tips

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 9 November 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 or articles 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 - you may need to enable pop-ups.


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.


You could play a key role in the last census

Since there's a good chance that the 2011 England & Wales census will be the last, have you considered applying for a job as a Census Collector, Census Coordinator, or Special Enumerator? In all there are 35,000 jobs on offer, and whilst the rates of pay are not generous, I suspect that quite a few LostCousins members would welcome the opportunity to be involved in such an historic event.


There are full-time (37 hours per week), part-time (25 hours), and very part-time (15 hours) positions available; for full details of the positions available in your area check out this site. There are also vacancies for enumerators in Scotland, but I'm sorry to say that recruitment in Northern Ireland seems to have finished.


I worked as an enumerator on the 1971 Census and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I hope that Donna - who first alerted me to census job site - gets the position she applied for. If you want to take part, don't delay because the deadline for applications is fast approaching!


What should replace the census?

You may recall that when the Director General of the Office of National Statistics wrote to me last month he referred to the Beyond 2011 project, which is looking at alternative ways to meet the need for key population statistics. And indeed, that says it all - the aim of the census is to collect statistics, and from that point of view the names of the individuals (information that's so valuable to us, as family historians) are irrelevant.


I see the published censuses from 1841-1911 as being valuable to family historians in three key ways:


(1) They typically show a family unit, so it's usually easy to confirm that one has found the right household.


(2) They show where the family was living and what they were each doing at the time of the census.


(3) They provide indications of age and birthplace.


The snag is that from 1961 onwards the birthplace is no longer given, and starting around this time a more permissive society resulted in more complicated family structures - with many families being split following divorce and others never really forming in the first place. After all, the term sibling is now in common parlance, whereas a generation or two ago not one person in 10 would have known what it meant! In consequence of all these changes it's arguable that none of the three requirements listed above will be satisfactorily met by the 2011 Census when it is published in 2112.


That's why I have suggested that more comprehensive information in birth, marriage, and death registers would be a reasonable goal, and I believe that if this data could be combined with electoral rolls, Inland Revenue records, and similar sources we could end up with something that is far more useful to the family historians of the 22nd century than the decennial census in its present form.


Because almost all of this data is now held electronically it wouldn't require digitising or transcribing - so the cost of making the records available for searching in (say) 100 years time would be minimal. Provided, of course, that the data isn't destroyed between now and then - and in this respect it's rather ominous that on the Data Protection page of the Inland Revenue website those requesting copies of their personal data are asked to supply previous addresses only from the past 5 years.


Right now there is a strong incentive for organisations to destroy data when it no longer meets their needs -we must ensure that the needs of the historians of the future are also taken into account. The Dark Ages are so called because of the lack of documentary and archaeological evidence of what was happening in Anglo-Saxon Britain during between the departure of the Romans at the beginning of the 5th century, and the arrival of the Normans in 1066 - so let us not collude or acquiesce in the creation of a new Dark Age at the start of the third millennium.


Where there's a will there's a wait

Tina wrote to let me know that there are delays in obtaining copies of wills and copies of letter of administration from the Probate Registry - she had to wait nearly a month to receive her orders, far longer than previously. It's not surprising that the publication of the National Probate Calendar at Ancestry has had this effect, but it's better to be forewarned, especially if you're filling in gaps in your research ahead of Christmas.


Origins adds Oxfordshire will index

An index to over 21,000 pre-1858 wills from Oxfordshire is now online at Origins. It's the latest addition to their National Wills Index, which is being created in co-operation with the British Record Society, the Society of Genealogists, and other organisations.


Shropshire transcriptions free online

Bob recently wrote to thank me for including a link to the Forest of Dean website in a recent article: "Forest of Dean has produced over 80 Records for me so far, shows how useful your Newsletter is - especially for those of us who are reliant on online sources."


But he also tipped me off about a site that has dozens of Shropshire register transcriptions (and a few from Herefordshire too) - you'll find it here.


Knocking down 'brick walls'

Three months ago I wrote an article that helped quite a few members break down their brick walls - but I don't claim to have all the answers, and reading this page on the findmypast site might help to give you a different perspective on the problem.


Medical records: a sorry state of affairs

Last month I wrote about the failure of the Data Protection Act to preserve our personal data, and gave hospital records as an example of how things are going wrong. Then in my last newsletter I reported some of the sad stories I'd heard from members who had suffered as a result of records being lost, mislaid, or destroyed. Since then I've heard many more harrowing stories, and one unexpected problem I've discovered is that people who emigrate seem to lose all control over their medical records, even if they stay within the European Union - a ridiculous state of affairs!


Far worse was the realisation that in some cases it's not only the patients themselves who lose out when their records are destroyed - their children can also suffer. For example, one member told me of her struggle to find out whether the medication she'd taken during pregnancy was the one that is now known to cause problems for the offspring. Sadly all of her medical records were destroyed long before she had any idea that there was anything to worry about.


She ended her email to me with the comment "I do not think that a government department should be able to destroy the medical records of someone who is still alive even if they choose to live in another country". It's plain commonsense as far as I am concerned, and the irony is that you don't have to emigrate for medical records to be destroyed - another member told me how when she changed GPs her new doctor tore up her old medical records in front of her!


Last time I wrote about a patient with three sets of medical records at one hospital, and this prompted an email from a member who was lucky to survive her course of treatment - not least because she had two sets of records, one of which was lost. Another member who was due to have an angioplasty was concerned because of an adverse reaction she'd had to a similar test some years before, but could they find the relevant records? I suspect you know the answer.


It's telling that whilst there are many doctors and other health workers who belong to LostCousins, not one of them has written in to defend the present system. Medical records can literally make the difference between life and death, so if they are treated with such disdain, what hope is there for education records, tax records, pension records and the rest? The data protection legislation we have encourages the destruction of data - in my opinion it needs to be changed, and quickly!


Do you have living relatives on the 1911 Census?

Bronwyn wrote to me recently to tell me about her Uncle Jack, who at 100 years of age is one of just a few thousand survivors of the 1911 Census. I asked her whether he had any concerns about the data being published during his lifetime: "Uncle Jack was absolutely delighted to see himself and his family on the 1911 census. It brought to mind very clear memories of his father sitting at the table in the corner filling in forms etc. Apparently his father was very proud of his handwriting."


Do you have any living relatives who were recorded in 1911? What do they think about the publication of the census?


Staying with the 1911 Census, John told me about a poem he found on a census schedule, apparently composed by two nurses in London who resented the fact that women could not vote:


We are longing to write

Our names and our age,

And infirmities too,

On this quaint yellow page,

But since we don't count

(Though our taxes we pay)

We'll forgo this delight

Till some future day.


Tip: check it out for yourself using a Census Reference search at findmypast - enter the Piece number as 1224 and the Schedule number as 202. In a similar way you can look up any of the other entries from the England & Wales censuses on your My Ancestors page - itís by far the quickest and easiest way to check your entries.


Scotlandspeople credits - update

In the last newsletter I explained how researchers in Scotland can get discounted Scotlandspeople credits from many libraries and family history societies. However, I was wrong when I said that you couldn't use the credits with an existing account, as Margaret pointed out. She explained that you can add voucher-based credits by clicking on the 'Buy more credits' link, then completing the box headed 'Do you have a voucher code?'.


Free access to Ancestry in New Zealand and Australia

Loreley wrote from Western Australia to tell me that many public libraries there offer free access to Ancestry, as does her local family history society; Sharon informed me that many libraries in New Zealand offer Ancestry Library Edition and (most unusually) she can even log-in from home.


Have you discovered the My Contact page?

Almost all the pages on the LostCousins site are listed in the menu that runs down the left-hand side of every page - but there's one that you won't see listed, the My Contact page.


There's a My Contact page for each of the relatives listed on your My Cousins page, not only the ones that you've made contact with, and whose names are shown, but also the new contacts whose initials only are given. To get to the relevant My Contact page simply click on the person's name or initials.


What will you find when you get there? First and foremost there's a list of every person who appears not only on your My Ancestors page but also on the page of the person you've been linked to - and against each name you'll see a description of how each of you are related to them.


But that's not all you'll find - there's also a section where you can jot down notes. For example, you might decide to record how precisely how you're related to each other - or make a note of where you first linked up (if it wasn't LostCousins). I sometimes use the Notes area to remind myself of questions to ask my cousin when we're next in contact.


Tip: nothing you write in the Notes section can be seen by anyone else, not even the relative you've been linked with. To display a note on your My Cousins page click the symbol to the right of the contact's name (there's also an option to display all notes or hide all notes).


Be careful when you share information

In the last newsletter I warned about the dangers of posting information online, and in response I received several tales of woe, including this one:


"I was interested to read that it is against the law to use living people's information without their permission. I met a distant relative on line, she had seemed very nice and I was willing to help her with information, after all I was able to visit the archives holding information on our common ancestors, and seemingly she was not able to do this herself. She gladly took everything I offered and even contacted me to ask for more!


"Later I found the information in her public family tree on Ancestry, not only transcribed inaccurately but including my living relatives' personal data. Not only had I not given her permission to do this, I had actively resisted the opportunity to make my tree available to all and sundry to protect my family. To make matters worse, the information I had given her was found on other large trees with whose owners I had had no contact at all (the origin of this information was obvious as it was a duplicate of the data inaccurately copied from my painstaking research). I had to contact this distant relative and ask her to remove all information about the living members of my family and then also check the other trees to make sure that the details were removed.


"The relation did remove the data, but grudgingly - and to top it all, afterwards I found that she had barred me from her tree on another site! So beware whom you befriend and share your information with."


I myself have found that on some sites the first thing people do, even before we know how - or even if - we are related, is make their tree available to me, and they then expect me to do the same for them. At LostCousins there is no pressure to share information - you can share what you want, when you want. Why give someone your entire tree when there's only one branch that's relevant? I don't, and nor should you - otherwise you will be easy prey for the 'name collectors' who are more interested in quantity than quality.


Tip: if your family tree program doesn't allow you to cut a branch off your tree to send to somebody else, take a look at the free trial version of Genopro (there's a link in the next article).


Suggestions for Santa

Albelli is the biggest European producer of photo books, and they also produce personalised calendars, diaries, and photos printed on canvas (the sort of thing that professional photographers charge an arm and a leg for). Whether you decide to use modern photos, or photos of your ancestors, these would make great Christmas presents - and the best news of all is that until November 28 you can get 2 for the price of 1 when you click this link and enter the promotion code shown when you get there.


There's also a special offer at Historic Newspapers, where you can get 10% off your entire basket when you click here and enter the code MERRY2 (this lasts until December 17, but I wouldn't recommend leaving it to the last minute).


Helen wrote in with a very sensible suggestion, which was to create a LostCousins gift voucher that members could give to their friends and relatives. A great idea, but sadly the logistics involved are well beyond my capabilities, though I did come up with an alternative that would work - simply give your friend or relative a cheque made out to "Lost Cousins Ltd" for either £10 (for a single subscription) or £12.50 (for a couple). Actually it's better than a gift voucher, because if they don't use the cheque the money stays in your bank account, whereas with a regular gift voucher the money is lost if it isn't used.


If you, or someone you know, are looking for a simple family tree program that allows you to design the layout of the tree yourself, it's worth having a look at Genopro, which is the main program that I've used for the past 8 years. As a LostCousins member you can save 10% when you follow this link (and there are additional discounts when you buy more than one copy). Of course, no one program is right for everyone, so I'd recommend that - just as I did in 2002 - you take advantage of the free trial before you buy.


Finally, a touch of magic! If you saw the most recent series of Dragons' Den you will undoubtedly remember the Kymera Magic Wand Remote Control, which wowed the dragons and resulted in all five of them pleading to invest.


What you may not recall is that I wrote about Chris Barnardo, the designer of the wand, in my newsletter three years ago when he was launching his dadcando website - and yes, he is related to Dr Barnardo. He's a great guy who thoroughly deserves his success - and I bet you a lot of wands will be waved at the TV on Christmas Day!


Find a cousin for Christmas

When you think about the true meaning of Christmas it's hard to imagine a better gift than the discovery of a living relative - a 'lost cousin'. Of course, on Christmas Day itself we're all to busy to sit in front of the computer typing information from the census - which is why NOW would be a good time to bring your My Ancestors page up to date.


You'd think, wouldn't you, that anyone reading this newsletter would also be taking part in the LostCousins project to match cousins all over the world - but amazingly I've found that only half of the members who write to compliment me on the newsletter are participating fully! The rest have only a few dozen entries on their My Ancestors page - or even none at all.


If everyone reading this newsletter brings their My Ancestors page up to date by listing ALL of the relatives that they've found on the 1881 Census there will be literally thousands of EXTRA cousins discovered between now and Christmas. Will you be one of those who makes a difference?


Tip: Most of your living relatives are descended from the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own in 1881, so they're the ones to focus on.


Department of corrections

Wonderful as the records at Ancestry are, they sometimes make silly mistakes. I'm not talking about transcription errors, which are a fact of life, but the sort of errors that evidence carelessness or ignorance.


For example, Rosemarie pointed out that when she searched the London Metropolitan Archives parish registers for entries from the London Borough of Bromley, which is south of the River Thames, the only results she got were from Bromley-by-Bow, which is north of the River.


You might, in that case, decide that it was better to search by parish - but that route is also pitted with traps for the unwary, because if you type the name of the parish slightly differently (eg Saint instead of St or vice versa) you won't get the results you were hoping for. After considerable experimentation I discovered that using wild cards wasn't the answer, but that I could search for 'George in the East' or even 'George East' rather than 'St George in the East' - however, you can see how easy it would be for someone less persistent than me to go wrong.


Note: I always use the 'Old search' at Ancestry, because in my experience it almost always gives more useful results than the 'New search' (see my article in the May 3 newsletter for an explanation).


Of course, Ancestry aren't the only ones to make mistakes. Over at findmypast I found 4 consecutive pages from the 1861 Census where almost all of the surnames had been omitted, even though they were as clearly legible as any of the other data. If you've had trouble finding relatives who would have been living in Mile End Old Town in 1861 you might want to take a look at piece 299, folio 64, page 3 and the three pages following.


Tip: use a Census Reference search. In a similar way you can look up any of the other entries from the England & Wales censuses on your My Ancestors page - itís by far the quickest and easiest way to check your entries.


Peter's tips

Over a year ago I warned members that Air Miles were planning to cancel the miles of anyone who hadn't collected or spent any miles recently; the rule now is that if you haven't collected any miles in the past 24 months you will lose your entire balance.


That's one pitfall to watch out for - but the other is that all paper Air Miles will expire at the end of this month! I still had a few hundred paper miles that I collected 25 years ago when Air Miles first began, and so I've sent them off to be added to my account. If you've any of those old vouchers tucked away in a drawer I suggest you do the same - you'll find information on the Air Miles site here. Note that they ask you to send your vouchers by Registered Post, a service that Royal Mail discontinued many years ago - I decided that Recorded Delivery was an adequate safeguard for £30 worth of vouchers.


This will be the last newsletter before December 5, when Tesco change their Clubcard scheme, and the points that you've collected fall in value by 25% - so I make no apologies for this third mention. Until December 5 you can get 4x the value of your vouchers, but from December 6 it will be only 3x - so by failing to spend your clubcard points on rewards before the deadline you'll lose an amount equivalent to their face value.


Here's a riddle for you, one that will intrigue anyone who buys wine from their local Tesco supermarket: "Which costs less, six bottles of wine at £3.99 each, or six bottles of wine at £7.99 each but which are on offer at 3 for £12?".


Obvious, isn't - 3 for £12 is equivalent to £4 each, so the £3.99 bottles must be cheaper. Or so one would think - but that isn't how things work out in the topsy-turvy world of Tesco pricing. When you buy 6 bottles or more you get a discount of 5%, but because that discount is calculated on the shelf price of the wine you get a 40p reduction for each £7.99 bottle (bringing the net cost down to £3.60), against just 20p for the £3.99 bottle (bringing it down to £3.79).


Stop Press

This is where any last minute corrections or updates will appear.


That's all for now - but I'm going to finish off this newsletter by quoting from an email I received last week from Anthony, who has been a member for over 5 years:


"I would like to say how much I enjoy your site. Its scope may not be anywhere as wide as other genealogical sites but the basis is both ingenious and rock solid - I never miss an opportunity to recommend it when I meet other people interested in Family History. You should take great pride in the members' comments about LostCousins - especially those fantastic newsletters. Which brings me to my own membership - I shall put my money where my mouth is and take out a paying subscription. Right now!"


Thank you, Anthony, for those very kind comments - and for your practical support. The more people who join LostCousins the more cousins there are to find, so we are all benefiting from what you've been doing.




Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins