Newsletter - 17 October 2010

 

 

More free access to the 1911 Census!

The future of British censuses

Knocking down 'brick walls'

Finding births and baptisms

Archive Awareness Campaign

National Archives improves Research Guides

Join a unique project!

Competition: win free tickets

Information from tithe records

All change at findmypast

Unusual names

More Gloucestershire records free online

When is a network not a network?

Fancy a whinge?

The generosity of LostCousins members

Peter's Tips

What's on my Kindle?

 

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 4 October 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 don’t 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.

 

More free access to the 1911 Census!

Several members have confirmed that they were able to get free access to the 1911 Census at different Welsh record offices (see my article in the last newsletter).

 

However Wendy discovered that there are also several record offices in England where there is currently free access, including Birmingham Archives & Heritage (until 23 December), Devon Record Office (to 22 October ), Manchester Archives and Local Studies (ongoing), Norfolk Record Office (to 23 October), and Nottinghamshire Archives (to 22 October). In each case you should telephone in advance to check the details and make a booking - availability is necessarily limited.

 

Some archives offer free access to other findmypast records, and I noticed that Devon Record Office offers free access to DocumentsOnline until 26 March 2011. It's also worth checking with your local LDS Family History Centre to see what they offer.

 

The future of British censuses

Family historians around the world were shocked earlier this year when the government announced that the 2011 Census might be the last household census, suggesting that in future much of the necessary information might come from sources such as credit-rating agencies.

 

The needs of family historians have never to my knowledge been a factor in the design of the census, and one of the pieces of information we find most useful - birthplace - hasn't been recorded since the 1951 Census.

 

If the census as we know it is abolished, we need to ensure that the needs of family historians are met in some other way. The best solution I can think of is for more information to be recorded on birth, marriage and death certificates so that it's easier for the historians of the future to untangle the complicated relationships that exist in many modern families.

 

This was the suggestion I put to Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, the Cabinet Office Minister who announced the review of the census, when I wrote to him in early August. This week I received a reply from the Director General of the Office for National Statistics, who told me that he was passing my suggestion to the General Register Office for consideration.

 

Although the Scotland and Northern Ireland censuses are organised separately, it seems that they may go the same way as the England & Wales census. In his letter the DG concluded with the sentence "You might like to know that the National Statistician together with the Registrars General of Scotland and Northern Ireland has recently instigated a project ‘Beyond 2011’ to investigate the feasibility of alternative methods of collecting census-type information."

 

Knocking down 'brick walls'

I've written about 'brick walls' on a number of occasions, and I know that many of you have found my tips useful - but there's one problem that only you can solve. Why? Because it's in your own mind!

 

That's right, whilst we can look dispassionately at the problems of others, when it comes to our own tree it's very difficult to be objective, especially when it involves relatives we met in your youth. Surely that little old lady who attended church twice every Sunday couldn't have had an illegitimate child when she was a teenage servant girl?

 

We interpret these mental blocks as brick walls, because that's what any rational person would do - which is why sometimes we have to behave irrationally. Do you remember what the White Queen said to Alice?

 

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said "one can't believe impossible things."

 

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

 

Unless you can accept that everything you think you know could be wrong, there are some problems that you'll never solve.

 

Finding births and baptisms

I get so many emails from members who are having difficulty finding the birth of an ancestor that I thought it would be useful to provide links to the two major articles I've written on this topic and which were published in this newsletter earlier in the year.

 

For births after the commencement of Civil Registration click here; for earlier births click here.

 

Note: while both of the articles relate to England & Wales, many of the techniques can be applied to other parts of the UK, and indeed to research in other countries.

 

Archive Awareness Campaign

Do you remember Archive Awareness Month, which first took place in September 2003? One year - I think it was 2004 - I travelled all over East Anglia visiting regional events and doing interviews with local radio stations about LostCousins.

 

The Archive Awareness Campaign is still going, and this autumn and winter there are dozens of events taking place in different parts of England - check the website for full details.

 

National Archives improves Research Guides

I've long been a fan of the Research Guides on the National Archives website - there's such a wealth of knowledge on topics such as military records and wills, and best of all they include information about records that TNA itself doesn't hold.

 

This week TNA announced that new, easier-to-use versions of the Research Guides will be available from 18 October. You can find an A-Z list of Research Guides by clicking here (if the address changes on 18 October I'll update the link as soon as possible thereafter).

 

Join a unique project!

You may find it hard to believe, but half the people reading this newsletter aren't participating in the LostCousins project to link cousins all over the world (or have only entered a small sample of their data). Are you one of them?

 

Did you know that if you have British ancestry you can expect, on average, to find one new living relative IMMEDIATELY for every 60 minutes you spend entering relatives from the 1881 Census? Considering how valuable it is to find a new relative whose research overlaps with your own that's pretty impressive, isn't it?

 

For a step-by-step guide to using LostCousins click here.

 

Competition: win free tickets

I've got two spare tickets for the Tesco Wine Fair that takes place in London on October 23rd and 24th. The tickets are for the Sunday session, which runs from 11am to 5pm, and entitle the lucky holders to taste hundreds of wines and champagnes. The venue is the Royal Horticultural Hall, where the Society of Genealogists used to hold their annual fair (indeed it was on the first day of the 2004 fair that I launched LostCousins), so many of you will be familiar with the surroundings - though they do tend to look somewhat different through the bottom of a wine glass.

 

How can you win these tickets? All you need to do is find the answers to the questions you'll find here. It will only take you 2 minutes to find the answer to the questions - I've provided links to the relevant pages.  When you have the answers send them to me in an email before 3pm (London time) on Wednesday 20th October, stating whether you would like both tickets or only one and giving the postal address where your ticket(s) should be sent.

 

I'll pick a winner at random from all the correct entries received, and if the first person out of the hat only wants one ticket I'll select a second winner who also wants only one (so if you only ask for 1 ticket you've got a greater chance of being lucky). Please head your email 'Competition entry' or select this heading if you choose to use the Contact Us page.

 

If you don't live near to London why not enter on behalf of a cousin who does?

 

Note: I came up with the idea of this competition because I didn't want the tickets to be wasted, but if there's a good response I'll run another competition next month with a prize that's more closely related to family history.

 

Information from tithe records

Ken drew my attention to the Friends of Devon's Archives website, which has some interesting resources including a project focused on Tithe Apportionments. Even if you don't have connections with Devon it's a chance to find out more about tithes and the records that have survived.

 

All change at findmypast

At the end of June I wrote an article for this newsletter entitled "Findmypast challenge Ancestry head-on". It turns out to have been remarkably prescient, because this month they announced a restructuring of their subscriptions which brings them into line with Ancestry.

 

There are now two main subscriptions, the Foundation subscription which costs £106.95 per annum (£85.55 after loyalty discount), and the Full subscription which costs £149.95 (£119.95 after loyalty discount). For the full terms and conditions of the 20% loyalty discount see here.

 

The Foundation subscription includes all the England & Wales censuses from 1841-1911, the GRO birth, marriage and death indexes (1837-2006), overseas BMD indexes (1761-2005), and BMDs at sea (1854-1890). For researchers whose primary interest is the censuses there will be a considerable saving, as previously they would have needed a Full subscription to get access to all eight.

 

The Full subscription includes all of the records on the site, which means that apart from the censuses and BMD records you get access to parish records, migration records (including Outgoing Ships' Passenger Lists), military records (including Army pensioners records from 1760-1913), and a wide range of specialist records (including Crew Lists and the GWR Shareholder Index). Anyone who already has a Full subscription is unaffected by the changes.

 

I'm glad to say that it will still be possible to subscribe to the 1911 Census on its own - and the cost hasn't changed. Indeed, nobody who has had a subscription to the 1911 Census, whether on its own or as part of a package will see their subscription increase under the new arrangements.

 

More news from findmypast: they've added 7000 extra Chelsea Pensioner records which had been misfiled at the National Archives, and 5 new military records collections totalling 480,000 records (see here for full details). Also they've been awarded a contract by Manchester Archives to digitise 8 million records from the area including cemetery registers and workhouse records, but I don't suppose we'll see any of them online before 2011 at the earliest.

 

Unusual names

In the 1911 Census there were 8 children named Queen Victoria and 11 named Queen Elizabeth, one of whom had a brother named Richard the Third! If you don't believe me click here, choose the 1911 Census and type in the piece number 20900 and the schedule number 324 (it's free to search, and you shouldn't even need to register). Thanks to Joyce for pointing this out.

 

More Gloucestershire records free online

Last issue I wrote about the Gloucestershire BMD indexes that can be searched free online - but what I wasn't aware of (until Nicola mentioned it) was the excellent Forest of Dean site, where you can search an enormous database of parish register entries including 90% of those for the Forest of Dean, and many from the surrounding area, including parishes in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Monmouthshire. There many other useful resources including a Wills index.

 

If only I'd know about these sites before my wife and I visited the area in July to search for her ancestors!

 

When is a network not a network?

John wrote to tell me that Somerset Heritage Centre will no longer accept CARN (County Archive Research Network) cards unless they were issued there - and he rightly pointed out that this negates the advantages of having a network in the first place.

 

I've suggested that John uses the Freedom of Information Act to find out what is behind this strange development, and I'll report back to members with his findings in due course.

 

Fancy a whinge?

Earlier this year I modified the Contact Us page at the LostCousins site to provide some new alternatives for the message title: one of these was 'Compliment', the other was 'Whinge'. Both have been widely used since then.

 

However, what I didn't realise at the time is that not all English-speaking populations are familiar with the word 'whinge', and readers who live in North America may need me to explain that it means much the same as 'whine', 'beef', or 'moan'. I introduced it as an option when I realised that almost all of the emails I was getting that were headed up 'Complaint' weren't complaining about the LostCousins site but about some other website or service, or perhaps a cousin who wasn't responding to their emails.

 

I don't know about you, but I find it quite invigorating to have a whinge now and again, whether it's about the weather, the government, or the performance of the England football/cricket/rugby team. But satisfying as it is, whingeing doesn't always endear one to others - so I'm careful who I whinge to, and what I whinge about. How about you?

 

The generosity of LostCousins members

In my August newsletter LostCousins members with Suffolk connections were invited to request looks ups in the 17th century hearth tax records in return for modest donations towards the cost of repairing the mediaeval church at Barking, Suffolk. I'm delighted to report that so far £530 has been donated by LostCousins members, an amazing sum. Over 60 members took of the offer, and over 100 separate surnames were looked up (when you include variations in spelling it was more like 500 names).

 

However, I understand that hardly anyone successfully predicted all the variant spellings of their surnames that appeared in the records, and this has led me to wonder as to how many of us have reached brick walls at this date simply because we haven’t checked the variant spellings that our ancestors used, or the scrivener noted on a legal document, or the vicar wrote into the parish register.  All of our ancestors spoke with a local accent, and those accents would typically have been more pronounced in earlier centuries because many people spent their whole lives living in the same area - for example, as recently as 1900 people in Oxford (which is only 50 miles from London) spoke with the sort of accent that today you'd expect to find in Somerset!

 

If the vicar came from outside of the area, as many did, or a will was drafted by a lawyer in London, then it's inevitable that variations in spelling would have occurred. Indeed, at one time spelling was regarded as unimportant - I believe that William Shakespeare signed his name in 9 different ways, and Samuel Johnson didn’t publish his famous dictionary until 1755. My own surname (Calver) was recorded with seven different spellings in the hearth tax records – and it's a fairly simple name with only 6 letters! So, when searching for records in the 19th century of earlier, don’t forget to check ALL the variations in spelling.

 

Giles Colchester tells me that he is still willing to look up entries in the hearth tax records - for full details see the original article. Even if you're not yet back to the 17th century on your Suffolk lines it's an opportunity to both help a good cause and lay down foundations for your future research.

 

Peter's Tips

Have you discovered what databases and other resources you can access at your local library? Here in Essex I can get free access to Ancestry, the Times newspaper archive, and much more - and most of them (not Ancestry) are also available from home when I enter my library card number. Many other counties offer similar facilities at their libraries, so why not find out what your library has to offer?

 

Interest rates may be low, but this week I discovered that the rate of interest paid on the cash held in my modest personal pension is just 0.00001% per annum. Or, to put it another way, to earn even 1p a year in interest I'd need to have £100,000 on deposit!

 

Have you checked what rate of interest you're getting on your savings? If it's less than 2% (and if you haven't moved your money recently it probably is) you can do better elsewhere.

 

Would you like to live longer? According to New Scientist, researchers verifying Einstein's theory of relativity have discovered that the higher up you are, the faster time passes. In their experiment an atomic clock raised by 33cm ran

faster, though only by 4 parts in 100 million billion. Still, it's another reason to buy a bungalow for your retirement, rather than a high-rise flat!

 

What's on my Kindle?

Regular readers will know that I got an Amazon Kindle for my 60th birthday, and ever since I've been searching for books to load onto it. One thing I've discovered is that there's a distinct shortage of family history books, and I hope that the many writers who subscribe to this newsletter will do what they can to fill the gap (converting an existing book to Kindle format is supposedly quite easy).

 

The book I downloaded most recently was Tour Through the Eastern Counties of England, 1722 by Daniel Defoe, which mentions many places that I know well. I found it at the Project Gutenburg site where all the books are free, and many are available in formats to suit several different ereaders (thanks to Diane for reminding me about this site).

 

Stop Press

This is where any updates or corrections will appear.

 

That's it for now - I hope you've enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it!

 

peter_signature

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins