Newsletter - 24th October 2013
Interview: Stephen Molyneux EXCLUSIVE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually
published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 11 October
2013) click here, for an index to articles
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With winter approaching and the nights drawing in it's an excellent time to get back to your family history research - so wouldn't it be great to have access to well over 1 billion British and Irish records at Ancestry.co.uk?
Every relative you add to your My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site between now and 5th November will give you a chance of winning an Annual Ancestry Premium membership - worth over £100 in monetary terms, but potentially priceless if it helps you to break down some of the 'brick walls' in your tree!
On 6th November I will select a relative at random from all those that have been entered in the previous 2 weeks - and the person who entered that relative will win the Ancestry Premium membership generously donated by Ancestry.co.uk
This means that the more relatives you add, the more chances you'll have to win! Use the links below to search the British censuses that we use at LostCousins - and remember that you can view the 1881 England & Wales census transcription free at Ancestry.co.uk (you only have to pay if you want to see the handwritten census schedule).
You can use the free Family Tree Analyzer program to identify the relatives in your tree who were recorded on each census - it's a great, timesaver especially if you're just starting at LostCousins.
Tip: even if you don't win an Ancestry subscription you could find some new cousins - and because they'll be LostCousins members like you, they're likely to be just as interested as you are in tracking down the ancestors you share!
If you live in the UK you'll be familiar with the right - introduced about 10 years ago - for voters to be excluded from the version of the register that is sold to commercial organisations. About half of the voting population have opted to keep their names and addresses private, and if you're one of them it's particularly important that you read on....
The Electoral Register is updated annually, and each year I receive a form to fill in which shows the data from the previous year. However, when the form arrived this year it didn't reflect my wish to be excluded from the commercial version of the register (they refer to it as the 'edited version'). At first I assumed this was an error, but then I turned the form over and read the notes:
Note the last paragraph: they are no longer allowed to pre-print a tick on the form, which means that not only do voters have to remember to tick the box each year, they have to return the form by post, rather than over the Internet, by telephone, or text message. Furthermore, whist there's currently only one form to complete per household, from 2014 there will be a form for each individual of voting age. (No wonder Royal Mail shares soared when they were listed on the London Stock Exchange earlier this month!)
However, when I did some online research into this matter I discovered a document circulated by the Electoral Commission in April 2012 which points out that under Section 11 of the Data Protection Act 1998 individuals have the right to opt out permanently, and that where they have done so a tick should be pre-printed on the form.
If you want to be excluded from the commercial register permanently (or until further notice) all you need to do is write this on the form, and sign it. Other members of the household will need to do the same, as only the individual concerned can make a request under the Data Protection Act.
If you've already submitted your form, but think you may have forgotten to place a tick in the appropriate column I suggest you telephone the Electoral Registration Officer at your local council and ask for advice.
Note: since writing the article I have found out that some local authorities are not observing the Electoral Commission guidelines, whilst others are allowing online amendments. There is no need to write to me unless you need my advice.
Although as a youngster I'd casually glanced through the pages of the Electoral Register in Seven Kings library, I first began searching seriously in 2001 - the year made famous not only by Arthur C Clarke, but also by Julie Pankhurst and her husband Steve, whose Friends Reunited site increased its membership from a mere 3,000 at the end of 2000 to an incredible 2.5 million a year later.
The interest that had been created by Friends Reunited was boosted by the launch of the 192.com website, the first to provide online access to the UK Electoral Register - and that Christmas they offered free access, so you can imagine what fun I had trying to track down work colleagues and other old acquaintances (though it wasn't until the release of the 1901 Census the following month that I decided to start researching my family tree). Until fairly recently it was quite expensive to search the Electoral Register on an impromptu basis - although there are many sites offering access, there is usually a minimum charge of £10 or more which makes it expensive if there's only one person you're looking for. This is compounded by the fact that around 40% of electors choose to be excluded from the published register - for example, the published figures for Lewes, Sussex show that 42.5% of electors have opted out.
Earlier this year findmypast.co.uk added searches of the UK Electoral Registers 2002-13 to their Britain Full and World subscriptions, which was very good news for subscribers. The 2002 register is particularly significant, because it's the last unedited register to be made available - and since people no longer move home as frequently as they once did, there's a fair chance of finding people at the same address.
Of course, as family historians we're also interested in older registers: at Ancestry.co.uk you can search the London Electoral Registers from 1832-1965, and similar records for the Midlands (Birmingham and part of North Warwickshire)and Dorset. Bear in mind that in the 19th century many people weren't able to vote - especially if they were female - but there are also unexpected bonuses as a result of people who were in business having extra votes. My grandparents were able to vote in local elections in Westminster because my grandfather's office was in the West End; the registers also gave their home address, which was outside the London area, so I was able to see for the first time when they moved home in the mid-1930s (my father had been unable to remember the date).
Those of us with English or Welsh ancestry have long envied the opportunity that researchers with Scottish ancestry can obtain uncertified copies of birth, marriage, and death registers entries at a very low cost - typically under £2 - through the government-owned ScotlandsPeople website. It's even possible to go to the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh and spend a day looking at registers and censuses for a fee of just £15 (you'll find full details here).
But did you also know that between 1952 and 1962 the LDS Church microfilmed the General Register Office for Scotlands birth, marriage, and death registers for the years 1855-75, 1881, and 1891? This virtually complete collection, on around 4000 reels of microfilm, can be viewed at the London Family History Centre (currently based at the National Archives in Kew).
A certificate is only a copy of a register entry - so if you can view the registers themselves, you probably won't need to buy any certificates (or uncertified copies) for the 1855-75 period. The London FHC also has microfilm copies of the indexes to the registers, and they cover a much longer period.
Tip: the London Family History Centre also has copies of some 19th century birth, marriage, and death registers for Ireland.
If you've researched in Wales, as I have, you'll know that it can be very difficult to identify places. It's not because of the fact that most of the names are in Welsh (although that can be a problem) but because not only do the spellings vary considerably, different names are often used for the same location - and some of these names have disappeared over time.
The Cymru1900Wales website aims to collect all of the wording shown on Ordnance Surveys maps of Wales published around the turn of the century. Volunteers who take part can add additional information based on their own knowledge, such as alternative spellings or even memories of the location.
The answer is no - but his death is, nevertheless, recorded in a 17th century Hertfordshire burial register. I thought at first that the transcribers hadn't indexed the entry, but you'll find him if you follow this link and search for a burial in 1648 with the surname King and no forename.
Hang on, wasn't King Charles beheaded in 1649, not 1648? Another calendar conundrum, perhaps.....
In the last issue I posed two questions relating to the English calendar:
(1) Which was the shortest year of the 18th century, and why?
(2) Why does the tax year begin on 6th April?
At one point I didn't think anyone was going to get both questions right! It probably didn't help that some of the apparently authoritative information on the Internet is wrong (but then you already knew that, didn't you?).
The most common answer to the first question was 1752, on the basis that there were only 19 days in September - but in fact the shortest year was 1751, which officially began on March 25th but ended on 31st December.
The most common answer to the second question was that 11 days were added on to the tax year to allow for the missing days in September - but if you actually count the days you'll find that on that basis the tax year ought to start on 5th April (there are 12 days, not 11, between 25th March and 6th April).
What happened in practice was that initially the tax year did indeed begin on 5th April. However, in 1800 the Inland Revenue decided that they would have a 366-day tax year, even though under the Gregorian calendar it was not a leap year (though it would have been under the Julian calendar). In consequence the tax year 1800/01 began on 6th April, as it has done ever since (though only because the Inland Revenue decided to be sensible in 1900).
Prior to 1752 it was common to show both the legal year and the calendar year when writing dates between 1st January and 24th March - for example, King Charles I was executed on 30th January 1648/49.
He wasn't buried in Hertfordshire, but at St George's Chapel, Windsor - where many other royal personages were buried, including Elizabeth Woodville - wife of Edward IV, mother of the princes in the Tower, and mother-in-law of Henry VII (but perhaps better known these days as The White Queen). Interestingly, Elizabeth Woodville once owned the Stansted Hall estate, in the same village where LostCousins is based - a fact I didn't discover until a month ago.
Understanding the vagaries of the calendar in the country or countries where you are researching is essential - for example, whilst George Washington was born on 11th February 1731, by the time he came to office his birthdate had changed to 22nd February 1732. In the US Washington's birthday has, since 1971, been marked by a holiday on the third Monday in February - which means that it can fall anywhere between 15th and 21st of February, so it never falls on his actual birthdate.
I wonder when he actually celebrated his own birthday after the calendar change - might it have been on the date he remembered as his birthday from his childhood? What would you have done in his position?
Earlier this year I warned members that the South African website Ancestry24 was closing down, but expressed my hope that the records would become available to search at some other genealogy site in the future.
It has taken quite a while, but on Tuesday there was an announcement that Ancestry.com has purchased over 4 million records from Ancestry24, and will be making them available to subscribers in the near future.
Tip: although the Ancestry24 site is closed, it is still possible to view their Beginners Guide (to South African research) if you follow the link on the Help & Advice page at LostCousins. I recommend you save a copy of the PDF document to your own computer since it's unlikely to be available for much longer.
According to Ron, who posted a message on the LostCousins forum, an index to the 1921 Canada census will be available at Ancestry.ca in about a week's time. I shall certainly be interested to follow up on my Canadian branches.
Older fathers project: have you joined yet?
If you can spare a few minutes then you can contribute towards a groundbreaking project. Following the publication of research that the ratio of sons to daughters amongst children born to fathers over the age of 55 may differ from the norm, I've been collecting data from LostCousins members to find out whether the facts support the theory.
It's very easy to take part in the project, because the free Family Tree Analyzer program - written by a LostCousins member - will extract the information automatically from your family tree (and do much, much more). You can download this incredibly useful program here (it is for Windows only).
To analyse your tree save it as a Gedcom file (all family tree programs can Export their data in Gedcom format), select Open from FTAnalyzer's File menu, and browse until you find the Gedcom file just as you would if you were using any other Windows program.
Don't worry if FTAnalyzer reports errors as it loads in the file - it would be a miracle if there weren't some errors - indeed, it's the error-detecting powers of this program are one of the reasons why it's so useful. Once the file has loaded go to the Reports menu and select Parent Age Report - two windows will pop up, one giving a visual representation and the other providing statistics. It's the latter that I need for the project, but before sending the statistics to me, please make sure there aren't any mothers shown as giving birth at the age of 50 or more, because this is likely to indicate an error in your tree (for example, a late baptism that has been recorded as a birthdate) which might also affect the statistics for fathers.
To make it easy to identify the possible error FTAnalyzer has a second report in the Reports menu, the Older Parents report. This will show mothers and fathers who were older than a given age at the time one or more of their children was born - so if you set the threshold to 50 (which is the default) it's easy to spot who the mothers were - simply click the Gender heading in the top section of the report to sort the mothers to the top of the list.
Of course, the Family Tree Analyzer can do a great deal more, as you'll see from the website when you download it - but please submit your data for the Older Fathers project first!
Tip: there's an extensive discussion area for FTAnalyzer on the LostCousins forum, so if you're one of the lucky few to have been invited to join prior to the official launch, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity.
DeceasedOnline has added over 100,000 records relating to the removal of graves and headstones from disused and closed burial grounds and cemeteries. You'll find some information on the TNA website under RG37, but there's a lot more detail at DeceasedOnline.
If you've ever wondered why some people chose to marry by licence you'll find this article on the FamilySearch site invaluable - it also indicates what records may have survived and where you might find them.
Thanks must go to Caroline Gurney, LostCousins member and professional genealogist, for highlighting this article during a discussion on the Society of Genealogists mailing list.
Nowadays even budget airline Ryanair has a PA system which allows the pilot to talk to passengers, but the scan you can see above suggests that things were a little different in 1956, certainly for this BKS Air Transport flight to Corsica. (BKS later came under the control of BEA, and was eventually absorbed into British Airways.)
Dakota G-ANAF was built in 1944 for the US Air Force, but was handed over to the RAF the following year. She flew missions during the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49 and BKS acquired her in 1950. The really amazing thing, however, is that she is still registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, which suggests that she's continuing to fly, even though she's older than I am (you can see some recent photographs of her here and here).
Isn't it strange what we discover when we start investigating the bits of paper that flutter into our lives? Until today I've never had a reason to look up the CAA's website - why would I? But I've only written an article, not a book - unlike Stephen Molyneux, who penned an incredible debut novel after stumbling across a marriage certificate on an antiques stall.....
Interview: Stephen Molyneux EXCLUSIVE
Hundreds of LostCousins members have bought 'The Marriage Certificate' after reading my reviews, and I've lost count of the number of people who have written to thank me for introducing them to the book (I'm also incredibly grateful to Michael who told me about the book in the first place).
However, the author - Stephen Molyneux - was a bit of a mystery and at one point I wondered whether it was a nom de plume, so I'm absolutely delighted that he agreed to come out of the shadows to be interviewed.
Peter: I really enjoyed 'The Marriage Certificate', and once I started reading the book I found it hard to put it down. Was it as much fun to write?
Stephen: I did enjoy writing The Marriage Certificate and as it progressed I couldn’t wait to get down to writing. The editing was more laborious, but on the whole it was a very satisfying experience.
Peter: The book has several threads that are cleverly woven together - are we reading the book in the order in which it was written?
Stephen: Not entirely: I had an overall plan in mind when I started but I soon found that it was easier to write the threads separately. I then had to weave them together in an order which fitted chronologically and at the same time gave nothing away. My wife and I had many discussions about this over supper.
Peter: Who are the other authors that you most admire, and how have they affected the way you write?
Stephen: Among well-known authors, I like to read books by Robert Harris, John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth and Sebastian Faulks. I often go to a local second-hand book fair and have discovered some excellent lesser known authors (lesser known to me anyway) such as Kate Grenville, Hilary Jordan, Nelson de Mille and David Guterson. I’m sure they’ve all influenced me in some subtle way.
Peter: The hero of 'The Marriage Certificate', is Peter Sefton, an amateur family historian. Did you base the character on yourself?
Stephen: No, but family and friends who have read the book recognise me immediately! Many of the names I chose for the characters are the names of people I know. They seem quite flattered and amused at this. Like Peter [Sefton], I am a pain when it comes to parking the car!
Peter: How much research have you done into your own family tree?
Stephen: I think I first started in about 2002. There was a family story about our connection with an aristocratic family, but it now seems that most of our ancestors were coal miners. Instead of a being a Viscount I am still plain ‘mister’. However, with the resources of LostCousins I intend to get back on the trail.
Peter: Interesting - I also started researching in 2002. What would Peter Sefton's advice be to someone researching their family tree who is up against a 'brick wall'?
Stephen: Think laterally!
Peter: Is there another Stephen Molyneux book on the way, and if so when are we likely to be able to buy it (and will it have a similar theme)? Will there be a series of Peter Sefton genealogical mysteries?
Stephen: Initially the answer would have been ‘no’ but the positive feedback I have received has motivated me to think about a second Peter Sefton novel. Supper discussions have started.
Peter: Finally, in case any readers are thinking of publishing their own electronic book, how difficult was it to put your book into Kindle format, and what was it like as a lone author dealing with an enormous company like Amazon?
Stephen: Dealing with Amazon was not too difficult and without them I am sure my manuscript would still be sitting on a shelf in my office. As far as the actual publishing was concerned, for Kindle I had help from my excellent copy editor with uploading, for the paperback I was able to sort that out myself.
Prior to self-publishing, I went down the conventional route of contacting a few literary agents. Although polite and sometimes complimentary, each one rejected The Marriage Certificate, telling me that it was either not for them or that there was no market for such a novel.
I think I should mention that before I entertained the idea of publishing, I gave my manuscript to several family members and close friends. Their feedback was most valuable and greatly appreciated.
I have found it quite difficult to answer some of these questions – much easier to write a novel!! I hope I’ve given you enough information.
I would like to thank all those members of LostCousins who have bought my book.
Peter: Thank you, Stephen - and I hope you'll come and talk to us again when your next book is published!
'The Marriage Certificate' is available as a paperback, or in Kindle format (remember, you don't need a Kindle - there is free Kindle software available for PCs and Macs as well Apple and Android tablets and smartphones). If you live in the UK please use the links above, but if you live outside the UK I suggest you follow this link.
If you're interested in joining us on this half-course, half-holiday stay on Portugal's Algarve coast in March 2014 please let me know right away and I'll send you the latest information. I've just confirmed that Chris Paton, the Irish-born but Scottish-based professional family historian, author and tutor will be speaking - details of other speakers will follow soon.
Of the 40 places available on the course, 36 have been provisionally reserved - and that was before I managed to negotiate a further 20% discount on the cost of accommodation at the beautiful Rocha Brava resort (almost enough to pay for an extra 2 days of holiday).
Whilst I obviously can't guarantee the weather, the Algarve in March has an average of 7 to 8 hours of sunshine per day, which is as much as we get in England in June!
Note: there's no limit to the number of people who can stay at the resort - the restriction is on the number of delegates that we can accommodate on the course.
Did you know that British citizens who were over 15 at the end of World War 2 are entitled to a free 10-year passport (a saving of over £70)? Furthermore, anyone who qualifies but has inadvertently paid for a passport since the concession was introduced in 2004 can claim a refund.
Unlike some people who write newsletters I "eat my own cooking" - and I'm not just talking about the delicious Wild Plum jam I've been making. After penning the last newsletter, in which I recommended using the Which? Switch website to find a cheaper energy supplier, I went and did precisely that.
Like many of you I was faced with a 10% increase, but I was delighted to find an electricity supplier offering fixed prices for the next year which are lower than my existing supplier's old prices, let alone the new ones. There's no point asking me who I've switched to, because prices vary from region to region - and in any case Which? Switch is completely free, so give them a chance to do what they're good at. (They didn't make any money out of me - because the cheapest supplier was one that doesn't pay them commission - so the least I can do is give them another mention now.)
Going back to cooking, there are still loads of wild plums in the hedge and we've also got more apples than we can eat, so I'm going to experiment with the recipe for Plum & Russet Mincemeat in Pam Corbin's Preserves book (it's in the River Cottage series). It sounds absolutely delicious - I'm a great fan of mince pies - and I'll certainly let you know how it works out, though I probably won't get to taste it properly until Christmas.
I don't know whether you followed my advice in the last newsletter to look for historical film footage on YouTube, but I certainly made some interesting discoveries. The first was a short clip of Julie Andrews at the age of 13 singing "God Save the King" in front of King George VI at the Royal Command Performance in 1948 - and I know precisely when she was born because I have a copy of her birth certificate (at birth her surname was Wells, which was my mother's maiden name, so I thought it was worth checking if there might be a connection). I also discovered a clip of KingGeorge VI struggling to give a speech in 1938 - it's said that when Colin Firth (who played him in The King's Speech) saw this footage he was moved to tears.
Even more poignant, though, is the only video footage in existence of Anne Frank - just a brief shot of her looking out of the window at neighbours who were getting married. There must be millions of amateur films in which there are glimpses of people who can otherwise only be seen in still photographs - yet before long there may be nobody alive who can recognise them.
Talking of photographs, Sarah wrote to say how delighted she was with the calendar she ordered from Francis Frith after receiving the last newsletter. That particular offer has ended, but if you follow this link you'll see that until the end of October you can save 20% on other items that are suitable for Christmas presents, such as historic Ordnance Survey maps - there's one on the wall behind me right now which shows our village as it was in 1896 (it was a very welcome present from my wife a few Christmases ago).
Finally, you may recall that in August I wrote about the late great Sir Stanley Matthews, one of England's greatest footballers. After the article appeared I had an interesting email from Emma Jolly, the well-known genealogist and writer, who told me that her grandfather's cousin was Joe Smith, the manager of Blackpool at the time of their FA Cup win in 1953 ("the Matthews final" as it is generally known). You can read more about it on her blog. Emma also wrote Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census, which came out last month, and I suspect that one of her other books - Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors - will be in demand when findmypast eventually start publishing the British Library's collection, hopefully later this year.
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
In my next newsletter I hope to have an interview with Michael Sharpe, author of Family Matters - a History of Genealogy, which is a book that I'm going to be referring to for years to come - it's crammed with fascinating facts and anecdotes.
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
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