Newsletter - 22 October 2011


3.5 million Irish prison records online

Warwickshire parish registers online

Cheshire registers coming soon?

Beyond 2011 - the future of the census

Marriage Finder tool

35 million parish records at Genes Reunited

Canadian Home Children

Do you have two birthdays?

Coming of age in Samoa

Life expectancy (continued)

GRO indexes no longer at LMA

Controversy over online trees

Privacy and Data Protection

How safe are online trees?

Is there such a thing as a half-cousin?

Anne shows the way forward

More Ripper coincidences

Peter's Tips


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 8 October 2011) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; there will shortly be an online index to articles thanks to the sterling efforts of members Elizabeth and, especially, Gill.


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 - if you are still using Internet Explorer you may need to enable pop-ups (if a link seems not to work, look for a warning message at the top of your browser window).


To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter.


3.5 million Irish prison records online

In a major coup the fledgling website has announced the addition of 130,000 digitised pages from prison registers covering the period from 1790-1924. Held at the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin, these are substantially all of the surviving prison registers for the 26 counties that now comprise the Republic of Ireland (registers for the remaining 6 counties are held at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast).


In all there are more than 2.7 million entries and 3.5 million names, an astonishing number when you consider that for much of the period the population ranged from 3 to 4 million. The most common offence was drunkenness, which accounted for 25% of the offences, followed by theft (16%), assault (12%), vagrancy (8%), and rioting (4%) complete the top five.


Since all of the 19th century censuses were destroyed these records will provide invaluable clues for researchers. As I don't have any Irish ancestors (that I'm aware of) I haven't been able to search the records in earnest, but in my tests I noticed that there were relatively few pre-1840 results.


The detail is amazing, although it does vary with time and type of prison. Included in the records I saw were name, age and place of birth, marital status, occupation, religion, brief details of the offence (sometimes including the name of the victim), the name and address of the next of kin, and the height and weight of the prisoner on arrival. Sometimes the weight on discharge is also given, and I was interested to see that in some cases prisoners put on weight during their sentence.


Click here for more details, including a list of the prisons and years of coverage.



Warwickshire parish registers online

This week Ancestry added over 2 million Warwickshire parish register entries with accompanying images. It's a great opportunity for anyone whose ancestors came from the county to extend their family tree back, potentially for hundreds of years.


Don't expect the earliest transcriptions to be accurate - if you've researched in the 16th and 17th centuries you'll know how difficult the handwriting can be to interpret. Mind you, I'd have thought that the transcriber might have managed a little better with the name 'Rowland Griffin', which has been transcribed as 'Fonland Sriffin'. And I do think said Rowland is more likely to have married someone called 'Anne' than 'Amir', don't you?


The records supposedly date from 1502, 36 years before Thomas Cromwell instructed churches to keep registers (!), but a cursory glance suggests that someone has misread the dates - the number '6' can look rather like '0'. Easily done (though you'd have thought that someone in Quality Control might have picked up such an obvious error).


The following links will take you straight to the relevant Search pages:


Warwickshire, England, Baptisms, 1813-1906

Warwickshire, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1910

Warwickshire, England, Burials, 1813-1910

Warwickshire, England, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1812


468x60 Warwickshire


Cheshire registers coming soon?

Meanwhile, over at findmypast there are rumours that the parish registers for Cheshire will be online soon. Indeed, if you click this link you may find that they're online now!


I'm prepared to bet that the quality of the transcriptions will far exceed that of Ancestry's Warwickshire effort - findmypast aim for upwards of 98% accuracy, and they do seem to have a genuine understanding of the records they work with, which is perhaps the most important factor.


Note: look out too for Cheshire workhouse records, non-conformist registers, Electoral Rolls and much more!


Beyond 2011 - the future of the census

Yesterday there was a meeting at the Royal Statistical Society to discuss the Beyond 2011 programme which is examining how the need for census type data might be met in the future (you'll find the Agenda here).


Unfortunately I couldn't be at the meeting, but I did discover that the proposed public consultation has now been launched (you'll find it here on the ONS website). Described as a 'User Requirements Consultation' it's clearly aimed at those who use statistics rather than the raw data (as we family historians do), however it might be the only opportunity we get to express our views before it is too late.


Marriage Finder tool

A new feature at The Genealogist caught my eye this week - they've added a 'marriage finder' feature to their 1911 Census (which now covers 19 counties, including London and the whole of Wales). As you may recall, the 1911 census was the first census to show the number of years that a woman had been married - so they cleverly use this data to perform an automatic search of the GRO marriages indexes when you click the word 'Married'.


Other noteworthy features at The Genealogist are their non-conformist register collection and their pre-1858 wills, both offered in conjunction with the National Archives.


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


35 million parish records at Genes Reunited

Genes Reunited have added a total of 35 million parish records for England & Wales: there are over 12 million baptism records, over 15 million marriage records and just over 8 million burial records. I believe that these are the same records you'll find at findmypast - the two sites are both owned by Scottish company BrightSolid - although looking at the numbers I suspect there are some records you'll only find at findmypast.


728x90_Genes Reunited


Canadian Home Children

An additional 20,000 records have been added to the Home Children indexes at Library and Archives Canada and can be searched free of charge. Over 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada between 1869 and 1930, many from children's homes or workhouses.


Do you have two birthdays?

I recently read in Saga magazine about an adopted child who celebrates two birthdays, one the day she was born, the other the day she was adopted. I think that's an excellent idea, not least because it introduces the concept of adoption in a very positive way.


Apart from the Queen - who has an official birthday as well as her normal birthday - do you know of anyone else who celebrates two birthdays?


Coming of age in Samoa

One of the books I was supposed to read during my first year at university was the classic Coming of Age in Samoa, by Margaret Mead. I was reminded of this when I discovered that in 1892 Samoa crossed from one side of the International Dateline to the other, as a result of which anyone who had been born on 4th July would have had two birthdays.


This December Samoa will once again be moving to the other side of the line, but this time Samoans will lose a day - so some people won't get a birthday at all this year. Still, at least they didn't decide to skip December 25th.....


Life expectancy (continued)

In the last issue I talked about life expectancy in the 19th and 20th centuries, but of course what's of most interest to many of us right now is life expectancy in the 21st century!


A few days ago there were newspaper headlines reporting the prediction of an Australian scientist that before long there could be a pill that will enable us all to live to 150. I'd quite like to see in the 22nd century, so living to 150 appeals to me - just so long as my mind and body also keep going.


So I was heartened to read of the marathon runner who completed the Toronto Marathon at the age of 100 - and he wasn't even the last to finish. I doubt that I'll be running marathons at the age of 100, but I'd like to think that I'll still be playing tennis and swimming. What about you?


Note: the DNA of an unnamed woman who lived to 115 has been sequenced according to a BBC news report. It seems that she was 105 before she needed to enter a care home, and a test at the age of 113 showed her to have the mental faculties of someone 50 years younger. Not bad, considering she was born prematurely and not expected to survive!


GRO indexes no longer at LMA

After October 28th it will no longer be possible to view microfiche copies of the GRO birth, marriage, and death indexes at the London Metropolitan Archives.


Some readers might be wondering why anyone would want to use microfiche when the indexes are available online at several sites, including Ancestry and findmypast. The problem is that the most recent years are not available online: Ancestry's indexes only go up to 2005, findmypast has births and deaths for 2006.


Although the indexes will no longer be available at the LMA, there will be two other sets in London, at the British Library and the City of Westminster Archives Centre. Other copies are held at Birmingham Central Library, Bridgend Local and Family History Centre, Manchester City Library, Newcastle City Library, and Plymouth Central Library.


Controversy over online trees

Rosemary's story (last issue) prompted a sack full of correspondence - I could devote an entire newsletter to the sad tales I've heard and still have plenty left over. However, opinions do differ, and amongst the responses there were one or two from members who felt that Rosemary had been too trusting.


The thing is, we'd all like to trust fellow researchers, especially those who claim to be our cousins - and we also tend to assume that people who are our cousins are going to behave like us. For example, if you wouldn't dream of taking information you'd received from a cousin and posting it online you might not think to ask your cousins to refrain from doing it.


Diane's experience was typical of the emails I received:


"I was quite happy letting cousins view my tree until a very distant relative asked me to send him my tree in GEDCOM format. I said I would email him some information which related to his side of the tree but he didn't want [just] that.


"The next thing I knew he had copied everything from my tree including all my living relatives. What really upset me was seeing my late brother's name on there as this person had no knowledge of my family, they were just names to him, and if anyone had contacted him he couldn't have told them anything."


I learned my lesson the hard way: many years ago I stupidly took information that my cousin had given me and added it to my Genes Reunited tree without asking her. At the time I didn't think twice about it - I was so excited about having some more relatives I could add to my tree - but I was mortified when she pointed out what I'd done. I couldn't believe how discourteous I'd been - not deliberately, of course, I simply hadn't thought things through. Worst of all, a couple of the relatives I'd added were still living, so Iíd also breached the Data Protection Act.


Ever since I've been very careful, both with the information that my cousins have passed to me, and with the information that I've passed to them. I note the source of the information I add to my tree - something I should have been doing all along, of course - and whenever I give information to my cousins I always ask that they don't post it online or pass it to anyone else unless they've checked with me first. Nobody has ever been offended by this request, perhaps because I demonstrate that I trust them by making this request as I pass them the information - I don't make it a prerequisite.


Of course, when I pass information to another researcher I don't give them any more than is necessary - I snip off the relevant branch of my tree (which is very easy to do with the Genopro family tree program that I use), then export it as a Gedcom file. By contrast, when you post your tree online it's generally all or nothing - either you give access to the entire tree or none of it.


That's not the only reason I haven't posted my tree online. As a number of members have pointed out, once you publish information on the Internet it is in the public domain - whilst you may own the copyright, in practice you can't control what people do with the information, and - worst of all - you may never know who they are. Whilst I'm very happy to share information with my cousins, I'd like there to be two-way communication between us - not least so that I can provide them with updates and corrections.


One of the key features of LostCousins is that no information can be passed until a two-way channel of communication has been opened up. When you find a new cousin at my site you can't send them information until they have agreed to correspond with you, so it avoids the annoying situation (one that you may well have experienced at other websites) where you send information to a supposed relative, but when no response is forthcoming you don't know why. Did they take your information and add it to their tree, or did it never get through to them?


Tip: before you try to make contact with someone in the 'New contacts' section of your My Cousins page click their initials to display the My Contact page for that relationship. This lists all the people who appear on both your My Ancestors page and that of your contact, and also shows how each of you are related to those people. It's a good idea to check that you've entered the correct relationships for the relatives that you share, because the wording of the email the other person receives will vary accordingly.


Privacy and Data Protection

When I was researching the legalities of publishing information online I came across an interesting document that forms part of the National Occupational Standards for Broadcasting. It doesn't provide all the answers, but it poses some interesting questions!


How safe are online trees?

For some months now I've been receiving alerts from Ancestry regarding a family tree that's nothing to do with me. At first I thought they were spoof emails - purporting to be from Ancestry but actually linking to a fraudulent site - but when I looked more closely I realised that they were the real thing (I could even go online and look at this family tree!).


Eventually I decided that something needed to be done, so I wrote to Ancestry:


"I keep getting emails regarding the Ratchford family tree. This is not my tree so please explain how my email address/user name has become associated with it?"


Here's the unhelpful answer I got:


"Dear Peter,


"We appreciate your message.


"When I look up your account I show that you have one tree, the Ratchford family tree. If that is not a tree that you want to be on your account then I would suggest that you remove it. I have included a link to an article that will walk you through how to delete a tree.


Answer Title: Delete an entire Personal Member Tree

Answer Link:


"If there is anything else with which we might assist you, please let us know."


So, no explanation of what has gone wrong, simply a suggestion to delete someone else's tree - I bet they'd thank me for that!


The fact that I appear to have control over someone else's family tree is rather worrying. I haven't uploaded my tree to Ancestry, but what if I had? If my experience is anything to go by, it wouldn't be very secure.


Is there such a thing as a half-cousin?

According to Dick Eastman, a leading American writer on genealogy, there is no such thing as a half-cousin - either someone is a cousin or they aren't. And so when I wrote about my half 4th cousin in the last newsletter I was half-expecting that someone would complain. I was half-right, I did get an email querying my use of the term.


I find it useful to distinguish cousins who share two of my ancestors from those who only share one. Consider this - a 4th cousin is someone who shares my 3G grandparents, whilst a 5th is someone who shares my 4G grandparents - so isn't it reasonable to describe someone who shares only one of my 3G grandparents as a half 4th cousin? After all, they only share half as many of my genes as a regular 4th cousin, which means that genetically we're only as closely-related as 5th cousins (though because of our common interests we're actually closer than many 1st cousins!).


If there are any pedants still reading this article I'm going to provoke you still further by telling you that I have some double 2nd cousins. That's right, DOUBLE 2nd cousins!


To me it's all very logical - my maternal grandfather and his younger brother Harry married two sisters, and as a result Harry's grandchildren and I share two sets of great-grandparents, not one - which means that genetically we're more like 1st cousins. Can you think of a better way of describing our relationship? I can't.


Anne shows the way forward

The wording of the email that announced my last newsletter varied according to the number of entries that members had made. I was delighted to receive the following response from Anne, who gave me permission to reproduce it here in order to inspire others:


"Thanks for the personal message at the top of your email thanking me for adding so many family members to Lost Cousins. I have found your site to be an extremely useful way to make contact and have found 18 'lost cousins' so far."


What is the secret of Anne's success? All she did was to follow my advice, and enter as many relatives as she could from the 1881 Census. She hasn't even been a member for that long - by contrast the downbeat email below came from someone who has been a member for over 3 years, but hasn't entered a single relative in all that time!


"Hi, the reason I've not put in any of my cousins is quite simply they don't want to know, and are getting on with their own lives, and that's fine by me!"


How could he possibly know that cousins who aren't even aware of his existence wouldn't want to correspond and share their research? Surely it's very unfair not to give your cousins a chance to find you?


There's something magical about finding distant cousins who are researching the same ancestors - once we've had a few chats I often feel as if I've known them all my life! I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on that experience, not even that miserable so-and-so.


More Ripper coincidences

I mentioned recently that my 1st cousin 4 times removed married Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, who in 1888 was in charge of the hunt for Jack the Ripper. Shortly afterwards I received a email from Sue, who told me that her house backs on to the cemetery where Abberline and my cousin were buried - and from her upstairs windows she can see their gravestone.


Mary wrote to tell me that she is related to Superintendent Charles Cutbush, another leading figure in the Ripper enquiry. Cutbush is a rare surname, one that only appears about 200 times on the 1881 Census, so when suspicion fell on a ne'er-do-well called Thomas Cutbush it's perhaps not surprising that a scurrilous rumour went about that he was the nephew of the Superintendent.


What is surprising, however, is that 120 years later there are still suggestions that the two were related, even though there is no evidence whatsoever to support this - apart from the coincidence of the surname. Mary has written to several people to point out their mistake, but as she said to me in her email "not one of the people I have written to... has even replied!"


This brings us back to the issues we were discussing earlier, in relation to publishing family trees online. If someone takes your information and uses it incorrectly (for example, attaching your relatives to the wrong tree) it can be very difficult - and often impossible - to get them to correct their mistake.


I'm sure that like me you've come across people who are more interested in quantity than quality (though they'd never admit it, not even to themselves). I remember vividly the person I met on Genes Reunited who had nearly 30,000 people on her tree. She wouldn't believe that I was related to my own ancestor until I provided the names of both my ancestor's parents.


Understandable you might think - but for the fact that my ancestor was illegitimate, a fact that she'd have been aware of had she done her research properly!


Note: not everyone on Genes Reunited is like her - I've made some good contacts there over the years.


Peter's Tips

In my last newsletter I explained how you could save £15 on a £50 online grocery order from Tesco, but when I tried it out myself I did even better than that - I got 1000 extra Clubcard points, worth £10 in cash, but up to £30 in rewards. Just click on the advert below and enter the code XX3PKK at the online checkout to get your bonus points (note: it must be your first online grocery order, or at least your first for a while, and it must be delivered by 31st October).



Of course, I always look for double discounts, so my £52 order was for goods that were on special offer - they were all things I buy regularly (they would have cost me nearly £75 the week before - or next week, for that matter). The only downside was the £3 delivery charge - but on the other hand I saved on petrol and time. Overall I'll have saved about £50 - not bad, eh?


Isn't it depressing when the days get shorter? Last winter I bought a light box to help me through the winter, and I've just noticed that exactly the same model is currently on sale, reduced from £59.99 to £39.99 (even at the full price it was cheaper than other light boxes I considered). Follow this link and save an extra £3 when you enter the code secret3 at the Checkout (you'll also get free delivery within the UK).


Because of this summer's unusual weather I have decided to extend the closing date for my 2011 jam-making competition until 14th November. There are two categories, one for tomato jam (which can be made to any recipe), and one for any other type of jam. All entrants will receive a free LostCousins subscription ranging from 3-12 months depending on how highly-rated your entry is, and the category winners will each receive a pot of my delicious home-made Wild Plum jam. You'll find the address for entries on the Contact Us page - please pack your entry carefully!


Stop Press

This where any last minute amendments will be recorded or highlighted.


I hope you've found my newsletter interesting, and that you'll keep writing in with tips of your own - many of the best articles in my newsletters are inspired by members.




Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins