Newsletter - 3 March 2013
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 23
February 2013) click here, for an index to articles
from 2009-10 click here, and
for a list of articles from 2012-13 click here.
For now I suggest you use Google to search for articles from 2011.
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).For your convenience, 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 nothing seems to happen then you need to enable pop-ups in your browser or change the settings In your security software.
To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
It's not often I write about the LostCousins website (even though this is the LostCousins newsletter) but I thought you'd like to know that February was the 15th consecutive month in which the average number of entries made† by LostCousins members increased.
What does that mean in plain English? It means that the average LostCousins member has more entries on his or her My Ancestors page than ever before. At the same time the membership of LostCousins has risen every month - so that there are now over 92,000 members - and when you put those two numbers together it means that you've got a better chance of finding your living relatives through the site than ever before.
Of course, averages mask the fact that some members have diligently entered every relative they could find on the 1881 Census, whilst others have only entered a couple of dozen. And, believe it or not, there are still thousands of members who haven't made a single entry!
It takes between 1 and 2 minutes to enter a household from the 1881 Census, and when you do there's a 1 in 20 chance of an IMMEDIATE match with a new cousin. So I'm sure you can work out for yourself that if spend an hour, or even 30 minutes entering relatives there's an excellent chance of INSTANT SUCCESS!
Remember that while it makes perfect sense to start by entering your direct ancestors and their households, it's actually the members of their extended families who are most likely to link you to your 'lost cousins'.
Tip: you don't need to pay a subscription to complete your My Ancestors page or search for cousins, and the England & Wales 1881 census transcription is always FREE at both Ancestry and findmypast. Furthermore, whilst you'd normally need to be a subscriber to make contact with a new cousin, LostCousins is going to be totally FREE over the Easter period. So start entering those relatives now!
On Tuesday householders in New Zealand will be completing their census forms, something they were originally planning to do on 8th March 2011 before the devastating Canterbury/Christchurch earthquakes caused the postponement of the census. Even now, two years later, special provisions have been made for householders whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the earthquakes.
Unlike Australia, where until recently census forms were routinely destroyed after the required statistics had been extracted (and even now are only retained if the householder ticks the right box), the Public Records Act 2005 requires that New Zealand census forms be preserved. However they are closed for 100 years, and even after that time can only be made available for statistical purposes - no personal information can ever be disclosed unless there is a change in the law.
It's important, therefore, that family historians in New Zealand keep a copy of their census form, whether they complete it online or send it by post. Not only will it be something that you can pass on to your descendants, it will be a reminder for you in the years to come - after all, few of us have perfect memories.
The registers held by the Canterbury Cathedral Archives, and which have been available to browse at findmypast since last summer, have been indexed - so you can now search by name. You'll find full details of the Canterbury Collection, which covers nearly 200 parishes in north-eastern Kent, if you follow this link.
Last November I mentioned the Irish Army Census of 1922, which was available at the free Military Archives site. At the time the images hadn't been transcribed, but I'm glad to say that you can now search the 33,000 plus records by name.
Note: carbon copies were made so you may find two identical entries for the same person - in this case it's likely that one will be significantly more legible than the other.
Claire Santry's excellent blog Irish Genealogy News reported this week that the 1908 Dublin City Electoral Roll has been published at the free dublinheritage site - they plan to publish all of the electoral rolls for Dublin City from 1898-1916 over the next few years.
Claire also told me that this month Ancestry hope to release Lord Morpeth's Testimonial Roll, which dates from 1841 when Viscount Morpeth left office, and bears 275,000 signatures from all over Ireland (the total population peaked around this time at just over 8 million). You can see some examples from the roll here.
The good news is that Ancestry have just added almost 1 million extra records to their collection of London Poor Law and Board of Guardian record. The bad news is that none of the records - now totalling nearly 4 million - have been transcribed or indexed, which means that you can't simply enter the name of one of your relatives. Even if you enter 'Smith' as one of the keywords you won't get any results (indeed you won't even get any if you enter 'teacher', which is one of the examples that Ancestry suggest!).
To search for records that might relate to your family, click here, select the current London borough which covers the area where your relatives lived, then pick the parish or Poor Law district from the drop-down menu, and finally choose the record type. You'll then see a list of the records held showing a brief description together with the dates that they cover - but to find whether your relatives are listed will mean browsing the records page by page. Best of luck!
There's an overview of the records here at the London Metropolitan Archives website.
If you've ever visited the London Metropolitan Archives you'll know that their records are organised by London borough - not the boroughs as the existed in the 19th century, but in the late 20th century.
If you're not sure which is the right borough, this PDF file will tell you the modern borough in which various landmarks - railway stations, parishes, postal districts - can be found. It's worth saving a copy on your own computer because it has moved since I last linked to it in 2010 and I was seriously concerned I wouldn't be able to find it again (there doesn't seem to be any way of getting to it through the London Metropolitan Archives website.
Another absolutely invaluable guide is the facsimile of the 1938/39 London A-Z that I've had on my †bookshelf ever since it was republished in 2008 (indeed, I wrote to the publishers some years earlier suggesting that they produce a facsimile edition - though I'm sure I wasn't the only one). So much of London changed as a result of the War that being able to see the capital and suburbs as they once were is very useful in my research - because most of my relatives were living in the Greater London area by the 1930s.
Tip: the A-Z not only includes a contemporary street index, it also has an index to thousands of streets that changed their name during the preceding decades. London County Council didn't want there to be two streets with exactly the same name, thus Oxford Street in Stepney - where quite a few of my relatives lived at one time or another - became Stepney Way.
The PDF file mentioned in the previous article is part of London Generations, which once formed part of the London Metropolitan Archives website, but nowadays can only be found - if you're lucky - using Google. One of the useful features at London Generations is an index to over 30,000 pre-1858 wills which came under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of London Consistory Court.
The index is free to search, and is split alphabetically into a series of PDF files - you'll find links to them here.
I don't normally mention temporary closures as the sensible thing to do before you make any visit to a record office is to check their website, but in this case some forward planning may be needed (and there's nothing on their website yet!).
Hillingdon Local Studies, Archives and Museum Service will be closing to the public on 28th March as Uxbridge Library is closing for refurbishment. †They will be in temporary accommodation with no public access for at least 9 months (possibly longer), and whilst they hope to be able to run a limited enquiry service, they will not have access to all their collections.
I reported in my last newsletter that findmypast had indicated their plans to put parish registers for most of Yorkshire online. The official announcement on their website, made on Friday, confirms that there will be approximately 15 million records, including images of the register pages. The West Yorkshire collection at Ancestry has an additional 8 million records online.
You can read the findmypast announcement here.
At the Show last weekend I picked up a copy† of the March issue of Family Tree magazine. Having ancestors from Devon I turned immediately to an article about Devon Heritage Service's project to index the quarter sessions records that they hold for the years 1734-1804. As there are up to 1000 documents for each year it's a mammoth task, yet this is just one of the projects that are currently in hand - you can see a full list here.
There's already an online catalogue which covers a wide range of records held by the Devon Record Office and the North Devon Record Office. A quick search on my ancestors' surname turned up 27 results, and whilst it's fairly common surname in Devon (though not elsewhere) there are a few entries that I'll be looking into more closely.
Record offices vary greatly in the detail that you'll find in their online catalogues - in some catalogues you're only likely to find the names of the rich and famous, but in others you might find your ancestor's name amongst the Poor Law records.
Tip: the quarter sessions records in the online catalogue for Cornwall Record Office helped solve the Mary Pike 'brick wall' challenge which featured in my newsletter last year - you'll find the puzzle and the solution here.
Hilary ran into a problem that I hadn't envisaged, and nor apparently had findmypast - the record for her relative referred to the previous page (his offence was the same as the one with which another defendant had been charged), but there was no provision to view the previous page (or the one after, for that matter).
Whilst I'm sure that this is something that findmypast will quickly put right, I did manage to find a way of getting to the previous page - so if you've run into the same problem as Hilary, you might want to try this....
Whilst viewing at the image go to the command line in your browser and copy the part of the URL that begins http://api
Paste this into another browser tab, and you'll see what at first appears to be gobbledegook, although when you look a bit closer you'll see the name of your relative. Now change the final digit of the URL, ie the bit preceding .json
I found that deducting 2 worked fine. Refresh the page, and if all goes well, now you'll see the gobbledegook for the previous page in the records. Look through the names until you find one that seems fairly uncommon, then search for that name. Glance through the search results until you find one where the year of the event is right, then view the original record - hopefully it will be the one you're looking for.
If it doesn't work - please don't blame me!
Finding black sheep in your family tree is one thing, but I certainly wouldn't want to discover that one of my British ancestors owned slaves in the 19th century. The Legacies of British Slave-ownership website has been tracking down the British slave-owners who shared around £10 million in compensation (equivalent to anything from £750 million to £7.5 billion today).
You can search the database here.
After the last newsletter went out, featuring photos of Who Do You Think You Are? Live I received an email from Anthony who asked:
"On Friday there was a guy, with yellow and green patches on his clothes, taking lots of photographs from the balcony, was that you? If so, I could have told you personally how I look forward to receiving you newsletter, details of which I've recently passed on to the other members of the Thanet U3A Family History Group."
My response was short and sweet:
"No, that wasn't me, but I'd like to know the name of his tailor!"
Did anyone else see the gentleman who was so splendidly dressed? I wonder who he was?
I've just been re-reading the newsletter I sent out to members on 26th April 2005, a few days before the 1st Birthday of LostCousins. In those days the newsletter wasn't online, so there were no pictures - and it was a lot shorter - but the tips were just as good. For example, that edition was the first to recommend the free Irfanview graphics editor, which I still use today.
And I notice that I had a pair of tickets for the Family History Show 2005 to give away - that was the annual show runs by the Society of Genealogists that now forms a key part of Who Do You Think You Are? Live.
But it was the leading article that inspired me to start this new column: entitled How Did Your English Ancestors Sound it drew the attention of members to the Collect Britain website and whilst that website is no longer with us, you'll find the amazing collection of archive recordings here.
For me the most interesting recordings are those of Allied prisoners that were made in Germany during the Great War (these were only acquired by the British Library in 2008, so weren't mentioned in my 2005 article). I find that listening to the local dialects that my ancestors would have spoken helps me to understand why so many of the details on the census were recorded incorrectly by the enumerator!
Note: in February 2009 my newsletter went online, and all of the issues since then are still available (you'll find details at the beginning of this newsletter).
I must admit I've never seen Stephen Sondheim's musical, but I was interested to see that the actors in the 1966 film version included Buster Keaton (it was to be his last film) and Michael Crawford, who I remember from the 1970s TV comedy Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (apparently he was third choice for the role, after Ronnie Barker and Norman Wisdom - though it was to see Michelle Dotrice that I tuned in!). Of course, the youngsters amongst you will be more likely to remember Michael Crawford for his role in the Phantom of the Opera.
Anyway, all that's my way of reminding you that before long you'll be able to join the LostCousins forum! Right now I'm in the process of setting it up, with an enormous amount of assistance from the members who generously volunteered their services after my appeal in the last newsletter. So far over 4600 members have indicated their interest in the form by clicking the appropriate button on their My Details page.
Members who have indicated their interest in the forum will be the first to be invited to join (though not necessarily all at once).
If you are an experienced forum user please note that I'm STILL looking for volunteers to help design the forum and set it up - I'm particularly looking for people who use forums that are nothing to do with genealogy. If you have been a forum moderator, that would be a bonus.
I'm willing to bet that the majority of the people reading this newsletter have never used a forum, so in my next article I'm going to explain why you might want to consider having a go when the LostCousins forum is launched.....
A forum is a website where you can communicate with others who have similar interests - in other words, it's a bit like going along to your local family history society.
However, it's better than that - because the membership is drawn from all over the world, not simply from the local area. After all, these days most of us don't live anywhere near where our ancestors lived.
A well-designed forum has sub-forums for different topics, so that it's easier for people with common interests to share knowledge and ask questions. For example, a genealogy forum is likely to have a sub-forum for each county, but also others for topics like Migration and Apprenticeships - the sort of things that will be of great interest to some people, but of very little interest to others (still, it's nice to know that they're there, since our research sometimes takes unexpected turns).
You move around a forum in the same way you move around any website. When you get to a sub-forum you'll usually find that there are lots of separate conversations going on - experienced forum users call them threads - and you can either join in one of these existing conversations or start a new one.
One of the great things about forums is that the discussions are moderated - there's always somebody watching what's being said and deleting any posts that breach the forum rules (typically anything that is rude, illegal, or spam will be deleted long before you see it). Moderators help out in other ways too, such as giving discrete advice to someone who is unfamiliar with the way things work, or picking out particularly useful posts.
A lot of genealogy discussions take place on mailing lists. Forums are better than mailing lists because you can dip in and out when you want to - youíre not dependent on emails arriving in your inbox. Mailing lists have been around since the 1980s - though forums aren't really new either, because I used to use things called Bulletin Boards in the late 80s and early 90s, and they were the forerunner of forums.
A big disadvantage of mailing lists is that your email address can end up being posted on the Internet for all to see - this applies to most Rootsweb mailing lists (just do a Google search for your own email address - put it in quotes - and you'll see what I mean). Another problem can occur when you find an old posting that is of enormous interest - but the person's email address doesn't work any more.
When you use a forum you don't have these problems. It's somewhere you can go when you need help with your research, when you've got a few minutes spare to help someone else, or when you simply fancy talking to some like-minded people.
In the last issue I mentioned an interesting website which listed nicknames and their derivations. This is a topic of endless controversy judging from the number of emails I received in response, so I'm taking my life in my hands by recommending another site, What's In a Name (thanks to Alexander for this tip).
Every newsletter has a few sentences at the beginning in italics - I expect most people skip over them because the articles look so enticing. Yet every day I get emails from members asking me how to find an article from an old edition of the newsletter.
One member said he felt a right chump when I gently pointed out that the answer was under his nose all the time. If you don't want to be a chump - why not go back and read the bit at the beginning!
Yes - your favourite column is back! I'm sorry that I couldn't include any tips in my last newsletter - I wanted to get the news from the Show to members as soon as possible, particularly since there were two offers that had only a few days to run.
As I write the $39 Y-DNA test is STILL on the home page of Family Tree DNA, even though I was told that the offer would end on 28th February - so all I can say is "get in quick!" (but do please read my comments in the last newsletter first).
Normally at this time of the year I'm encouraging members to rush out and buy postage stamps before the prices go up, but this year - for the first time I can remember - Royal Mail have said they won't be increasing prices, except for business users. In any case I'd hope that, like me, you bought several years' supply before last year's 30% increase!
Do you have an AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, or BT email address? These addresses seem to be particular vulnerable to hackers, judging from the spam emails that I receive.
You might think that it doesn't matter particularly if your email account is hacked. Think again! If your account is hijacked the hackers will send emails to everyone in your address book, and whilst it doesn't worry me (though it wastes my time) I bet you there are some people in your address book who would be upset, and some who might even fall for the scams.
In the worst cases you'll completely lose control of your email account, because the hackers will change the password without your knowledge - without access to your address book you could be unable to contact your friends and relatives. Just imagine this happening, as it sadly did to someone I know, just as you're going through a bereavement.
The easiest way to protect your email account is to choose a password that's going to be really difficult for a hacker to guess (or rather, for their algorithm to guess). This is where some people get it wrong - they assume that because "hackers won't know my children's names or dates of birth" a password based on this information will be safe. However, hackers don't guess individual passwords - they generate them at random, and the easiest passwords for them to crack are those that contain only words, or only words and numbers.
These days you can usually use a wide range of characters in passwords, not just letters and numbers but also symbols, and perhaps even punctuation. Simply adding one non-alphanumeric character significantly improves security, and adding more than one is even better.
Time for a change of subject! They say that the best way to control your weight is portion control, and I can certainly vouch for that - the bonus is that by eating less you can also save money, as I've discovered after buying a food slicer.
Carving cold meats by hand isn't easy - I used to end up with slices that were far thicker than they needed to be. Of course, you can buy meats in the supermarket, either pre-sliced or sliced at the deli counter, but then you're paying three times as much for a product that's only half as good as something you've cooked yourself (and when you cook at home you don't add preservatives, either!).
I've long wanted a food slicer, but it was only recently I found one at a price I could afford and with excellent reviews from past purchasers. I can't recall when I was so excited about a kitchen gadget, but don't take my word for it - check out the reviews at Amazon. So far I've used mine on one joint of beef and two gammon joints - and in each case the results were better than I could ever have imagined. Best of all, the joints provided almost twice as many meals as they would have done otherwise - so it's good for my waistline, good for my wallet, and good for the planet!
Finally, if you're thinking of switching your broadband to BT (I've had BT broadband ever since it started), drop me a line - there's a Tell a Friend scheme.
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
I hope you've found this newsletter interesting and that you'll make full use of your membership of my site to link with the cousins you don't yet know (your 'lost cousins').
© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver
You MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance. I have included bookmarks so you can link to a specific article: right-click on the relevant entry in the table of contents at the beginning of the newsletter to copy the link.
Please DO NOT re-publish any part of this newsletter, other than the list of contents at the beginning, without permission - either on your own website, in an email, on paper, or in any other format. It is better for all concerned to provide a link as suggested above, not least because articles are often updated.