Newsletter - 12th March 2014
More Irish Will Calendars online THURSDAY
WW1 on TV this week THURSDAY & FRIDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 27
February) click here, for an index to articles
from 2009-10 click here, for
a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a
list of articles from 2012-13 click here.
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It's only a small reduction, but at a time when so many other things are going up it's good to know that from 1st April it will only cost £3.30 to download digital images from the National Archives (until then it costs £3.36). The cost of self-service copies remains at 25p for black and white copies up to A3, but the cost of other copies is going up.
I mentioned recently that it was worth searching the free Welsh Newspapers Online site even if you don't have any connections with Wales (because stories were often copied or syndicated),† and subsequently a number of members have mentioned finding stories about their British relatives in the Australian newspapers which are free online at TROVE.
But an email from Judy in Australia reminded me that newspapers aren't the only useful documents you might find in Australia - birth, marriage, and death certificates there generally include more information than in Britain (more even than in Scotland) so it's possible you might discover vital information about a British ancestor in an Australian certificate relating to a sibling.
As many as 1 in 6 of the readers of this newsletter live in Australia or New Zealand, and there are just as many in the US & Canada, so it's very important that they're able to connect with their 'lost cousins' in Britain even though their direct ancestors may have left long before the 1881 Census.
But before explaining how those connections can be made, let's look at some statistics: suppose that your great-great grandparents left England for Australia in the 1840s - where are most of your cousins likely to be living now?
Most people would conclude that because their ancestors left so long ago, most of their living cousins must be in Australia. That would certainly true if you only consider 1st cousins (who share the same grandparents), 2nd cousins (who share the same great-grandparents), or 3rd cousins (who share the same great-great grandparents), but as an analysis by DNA testing company 23andme has demonstrated, we typically have 4 times as many 4th cousins as we do 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins combined, and 5 times as many 5th cousins as we have 4th cousins.
This means that of your living relatives who are 5th cousins or closer, 96% are 4th or 5th cousins, and only 4% are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins.
If your great-great grandparents emigrated from England to Australia then your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins are probably in Australia - but your 4th and 5th cousins are likely to be in England, which is good news, because they'll be thousands of miles closer to the record offices where your mutual ancestors records are held!
Of course, the same argument applies if your ancestors migrated to the US, Canada, New Zealand or anywhere else - the vast majority of your living cousins are still in your ancestors' country of origin!
How to make use of this amazing fact
The one thing you know about your cousins in the old country is that they're descended from relatives who didn't emigrate. Yes, they share your ancestors up to a certain point, but then your lines of descent diverge - your ancestors emigrated, theirs didn't.
All you need to do is what you're probably doing already - tracing your collateral lines. For example, if an ancestor who emigrated was one of 6 siblings you would trace what happened to the other 5 - with a particular focus on the ones who married and had children. Track as many of them as possible through the censuses until you get to 1881, then add them to your My Ancestors page.
Tip: the 1881 Census is the one that most of your cousins will have used - for the best results enter as many blood relatives as you can from this census (even if they seem quite distant) before turning your attention to other censuses.
Of course you don't have to stop with siblings - you might also be able to trace some of your ancestors' cousins and track their descendants on the 1881 Census. No matter how distant those cousins may seem, they share your ancestors, and so will their living descendants - and the more relatives you can find in 1881, the more cousins you'll find in 2014!
After several years of double-running Ancestry have abandoned the Old Search that so many of us have learned to love in favour of a New Search that is designed to be friendlier for beginners.
If LostCousins members were a cross-section of Ancestry's subscriber base most of you would be wondering what I'm talking about - the typical Ancestry user has never used the Old Search, and would probably find it hard to imagine why anyone would want to go backwards. What next, they might be wondering - names in card indexes? But the average LostCousins member has been researching longer than me - and I've been an Ancestry subscriber for 11 years.
Fortunately, over the past year or so Ancestry have been listening to subscribers like you and me, and they've incorporated into the New Search some of the most important features of its predecessor. Furthermore, it's still possible to search datasets individually or in groups, and the search form still adapts according to the type of record (so that if you're searching birth records you're not asked for irrelevant information such as the date of death).
Advanced users can still carry out searches using census references, and search for the baptism records of siblings using the parents' names alone (you can even omit their surname).
But they haven't taken the opportunity to introduce census searching by address (although you can sometimes achieve this by using appropriate key words), or by occupation. And, somewhat confusingly, when you search baptism records it's the date of birth that you specify, not the date of the ceremony - even though most historic baptism registers don't record the child's date of birth.
But overall, the changes are ones that I can live with - and, best of all, I can still jump straight to the record sets I use most often using the Quick Links on the home page (see my January article for a how-to guide).
Note: I understand that findmypast are currently trialling a new search system - it will be interesting to see how they balance the needs of experienced users against those of beginners.
The mostly subscription-based website ScotlandsPlaces has added about 10,000 pages from the rolls held by National Records of Scotland in respect of the Inhabited House Tax, covering the period from 1778-1798 (though there are gaps). To be included properties needed to be worth at least £5 per annum in actual or notional rent, which means that most rural properties aren't covered - but I'd still encourage you to take a look at the two sample pages at the ScotlandsPeople website, where you'll also find a more detailed description of the records.
The Public Record Office Northern Ireland will tomorrow be greatly expanding their collection of Will Calendars. Some 170,000 entries have been fully searchable online for the last few years, but this final upload will mean researchers can search all 400,000-odd entries in the Will Calendars of wills proved in Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry District Registries from 1858 to 1965. These Registries cover the six counties now in Northern Ireland, plus Counties Louth, Monaghan and Donegal, which are in the Republic of Ireland.
To search the collection click here and select Will Calendars under the Online Records menu on the right hand side of the screen.
Many thanks to Claire Santry of Irish Genealogy News for this information
Ancestry.co.uk have today added over 700,000 entries from Irish Catholic registers: the largest collection is of baptism register entries from 73 parishes. If you follow the links below you'll see which parishes are included in each record set, however the dates vary from parish to parish:
After last month's article about the Surrey death registers that were on display at Who Do You Think You Are? Live I had an email from Carol, who reminded me that Register (also Regester) is a surname.
That alone wouldn't justify a follow-up article in the newsletter, but then she told me that her great-great grandfather, Larman Register, was the Fen Skating Champion until December 1854, when he was beaten by the appropriately named Turkey Smart (see Wikipedia if this winter sport has previously passed you by). I did wonder at first whether I was the victim of an elaborate hoax, but the discovery of an announcement in the Stamford Mercury of 23rd May 1856 "Married, on the 15th, Mr. Larman Register, of Southery, (of skating notoriety), to Miss Kirchin, of Downham Market" put my mind at rest.
Note: it is said that Larman Register once raced against a train, although I can't find any contemporary evidence.
Alan wrote to tell me about two documents which list employees of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway who fought in the Great War - they are available free online here.
A year ago the National Railway Museum made available a list, compiled from numerous sources, of over 20,000 railway workers who died in World War 1 - you can search them here (the same page of their website also has links to other similar resources).
There are two programmes on BBC this week which I'm definitely going to be watching/recording - at 9pm on BBC4 tomorrow there's a programme which features photographs taken by soldiers, many of them never seen in public until now. And at 9pm on Friday, on BBC2, there are extracts from interviews carried out in the 1960s with almost 300 people who were involved I the Great War - and again, much of the footage is previously unseen.
There's also an article on the BBC website which has some interesting stories and photos relating to WW1.
After reading the article on rationing in the last newsletter Grant wrote in with a wonderful story from his childhood:
"Your piece on rationing brought back one of my earliest memories: it was c1950, I was about 3 years old, and eggs were still rationed.† My mother had saved coupons for half a dozen eggs which she placed on the cover of my pram - just as I decided to practice football.† Eggs, in carton, on pavement - broken.† But what was memorable was the way several other shoppers rallied round to recover as much of the broken eggs as was possible - yolks in half shells, cracked leaky eggs carefully wrapped in paper bags - so my mother could at least still use what was left to bake a cake.† No boiled eggs and soldiers for me that fortnight!"
Norman (one of the 45 members who'll me joining me in Portugal next week) remembered that neither fish nor potatoes were rationed during the war - which probably explains the British liking for fish and chips. He wrote that:
"....my mother and I used to buy some to take down to my father who was on Home Guard duty on the banks of the River Thames."
Sian had yet another perspective on rationing:
"I was born in 1944 and so was a child of rationing - still have our old ration books.† Just after the war ended my mother obtained a banana - goodness knows how - and decided to give me a slice as a very precious treat. Apparently I spat it out in disgust - she was horrified!† To this day I hate bananas. This story was still being told when I was an adult. My mother also managed to obtain a lemon and kept it so long it went bad before she could bring herself to use it! She also told me that she had cooked so long with powdered eggs that she could not cook with fresh ones when they eventually became available."
I never knew I was a velologist - so perhaps, without knowing it, you're one too? About 25 years ago I decided to start keeping the expired road tax discs from my car, little realising that in so doing I was becoming a velologist!
But very soon it'll no longer be necessary to display tax discs - in the information age it's easier for the police, traffic wardens, and others to check whether road tax has been paid by checking the records held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea (you can read the DVLA's announcement here).
Do you have any tax discs or other ephemera relating to the vehicles that your ancestors owned (or that you owned when younger)? If you follow this link you'll find some examples dating back to 1921, the year that tax discs were first introduced.
In September 2012 I reported on the start of a public consultation into a technique for eliminating certain hereditary diseases by replacing the mother's mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) with a mtDNA from a third party - in effect a third parent. Just as I was finalising the last newsletter the Government announced a new consultation on draft regulations to permit this procedure, which could eventually benefit as many as 1 child in 200, although initially the number of children helped will be as few as 10 per year.
mtDNA is not thought to have any influence on personal characteristics and traits (it provides only 37 of the 20,000 to 30,000 genes in human DNA), but the debilitating diseases caused by defects have no cure, and are sometimes fatal.
Why is there a need for three parents - on the face of it you would think that the father could provide mtDNA for his child?† Unfortunately the nature of mtDNA makes this extremely complicated, and the techniques that have been developed so far rely on donated eggs from which the nuclear DNA is removed.
Mother gives birth using false identity
According to a BBC News article a mother who gave birth in a Walsall hospital last August gave a false identity in order to prevent social services from taking her child into care (as had happened with previous children). It is believed that she got hold of the details from a social-networking site: according to a 2012 survey by the Department of Health almost half - 44% - of the women surveyed saw Facebook as a place to share advice and seek help.
Jo Walker, from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which campaigns on the subject of personal safety, told the BBC: "It's easy to think you know people you have met online and that they are your friends and and you can end up sharing a lot of information with them. But you have no idea if what they are saying is true and how they are going to use that information."
In the US a 27 year-old woman recently tried to find her mother through Facebook - according to the Huffington Post she was abandoned hours after birth in the restroom of a Burger King restaurant - whilst last week the Guardian told the story of a 74 year-old man who was one of the last babies to be admitted to the Foundling Hospital, which by then had relocated from London to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. Tom Mackenzie's tale The Last Foundling, the tale of his life in care and his quest to find his mother, has just been released in Kindle format.
Instances of scarlet fever, an infection that I thought had been consigned the case notes of history, have hit a 24-year high in England, with 868 notified cases in the first 8 weeks of 2014. Thankfully modern antibiotics mean that the disease is no longer the killer that it once was - whilst I was away from school for several months in 1956, this BBC article suggests that the main symptoms clear up in just a week.
There are many diseases that were once killers that have now been largely eliminated in the developed world, including TB - which confined my father to a sanatorium for 6 months in the early 1930s, and killed his elder brother Horace. But TB is also on the rise, with the number of cases in Britain at its highest level for decades. And at this time last year measles was also on the rise, although the latest report from the Health Protection Agency showed a dramatic fall towards the end of 2013.
When we buy death certificates for relatives from earlier generations we often discover that they died from diseases that have been largely eradicated, thanks to vaccination programmes, or can easily be cured, thanks to antibiotics - so itís hardly surprising that most of us can hope to live longer and healthier lives.
I've just finished reading a book called Happy Money, which explains how by spending our money more wisely we can be happier, no matter how little money we have - it certainly all made sense to me.
Now that I've finished that book I can get back to some more serious reading - Emily Aulicino's Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond, which gives an in-depth explanation of DNA tests and their application to genealogy. I started reading it last month, but it's one of those books that is crammed full of so much information that it's impossible to read it straight through like one might a novel.
Next on my list is Peter Lewis's A Rogue's Gallery, which the author kindly signed for me yesterday at 'The Oldie' Literary Lunch. It is also available on Kindle, but as far as I know they haven't yet come up with a way for authors to sign dedications in electronic books. If the rest of the book is half as good as the excerpts he read out then I shall enjoy it very much!
Sadly one guest missing from the lunch was Princess Michael of Kent, the supposed star attraction - but her late replacement, Alison Weir, gave a very good account of the life of Elizabeth of York - daughter of Edward IV, brother of Edward V, admirer of Richard III, wife of Henry VII, mother of Henry VIII, and grandmother of Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I.
Alison didn't think much of my theory that the Princes in the Tower died of natural causes, despite childhood diseases and deaths being very common and frequently fatal in earlier centuries - but time will tell which of us is right, because whilst Queen Elizabeth II won't allow the bodies to be re-examined, I gather there's an excellent chance that King Charles III will.
Note: another guest at the lunch was LostCousins member Sheridan, who came down from the Midlands after winning the competition in my last newsletter, with an excellent entry. She tells me she had a very enjoyable time!
Stamps are going up again
Postage costs are going up again - and by more than the rate of inflation. From Monday 31st March a 1st Class stamp will cost 62p (that's 12 shillings and 5 pence for anyone of my generation), an increase of 3.3%, whilst a 2nd Class stamp will cost 53p, an increase of 6%.
These increases won't affect me, because I followed my own advice and bought lots of stamps before the last increase in April 2012 (any newsletter readers who did the same will have paid just 46p for 1st Class and 36p for 2nd Class stamps). But if you missed that tip, or your supply has run out, it's definitely worth buying stamps at the old prices while you can (remember to buy stamps that don't show the price, otherwise you won't be saving anything).
Postage to Europe is also going up, by over 10% from 88p to 97p for a 20g letter, so if there's a post office near you with a machine that dispenses Post-and-Go stamps they're the best 'investment' of all (provided you can use them, of course!).
At this time of the year those of us in the UK are being reminded to use our ISA allowance. Being careful I only put my money into Cash ISAs but this year the rates are so low that you might wonder whether it's worth it.
I'd suggest looking at it this way - you might not earn much money over the next 12 months, but when interest rates start to go up again you'll be glad your money is in an ISA where it is sheltered from tax. Sometimes investing cash can be a long term decision, even if you're putting it into an instant access account!
I really wish I could invest in ZOPA through my Cash ISA - I'm going to earn 5% on most of the money I've put in this year. And currently you can earn a one-off bonus of £25 if you click here and subsequently invest a total of £2000 or more before the end of this year (by my calculations that's the equivalent of an additional 1.25% annual interest on £2000).
Nuisance calls - how to turn the tables
A topic I've mentioned many times before is that of nuisance calls. There are no perfect ways of avoiding them, so I've developed my own system for dealing with them, which is to record the calls and wind the person on the other end up by acting dumb or asking silly questions.
For example, the other day I was once again subjected to one of the most common (and most dangerous) scams, the person who claims to be from "Microsoft", or from "Windows". I managed to keep this fellow and his female accomplice on the phone for over 6 minutes, time when I was enjoying myself at their expense and preventing them from phoning someone else more gullible than me.
Here are some of the tricks I use:
Another strategy is to say "I'm sorry, I can't understand you - is there anyone there who speaks English". The usual reaction is to say "I am speaking English" - so I just repeat what I said the first time.
Recording the call not only makes it more enjoyable, it potentially provides evidence in the event that the authorities ever take action against these criminal enterprises, which can only survive because supposedly honest telecoms companies look the other way, and telecoms regulators stare at their navels.
The newest scam is the "Kitchen scrappage scheme". It was a real struggle not to burst out laughing - but I managed. After all, I can laugh as loud as I Iike when I'm listening to the recording!
Recording phone calls is legal
Most people think it's illegal to record phone calls without consent, but in the UK it's actually perfectly legal so long as the recordings are for your own use. It IS illegal to record a call with the intention of making it available to a third party, but it's only a civil offence - so it would be up to the villain to take you to court, which somehow I don't see happening.
But how can you record phone calls? Because these calls come in on my landline I use a very simple free app for my Android phone called Smart Voice Recorder (there's a review here). All I have to do is start up the app, press the record button, and make sure that my cordless phone is on loudspeaker.
Note: this app is also great for recording meetings - just put your phone in the middle of the table.
Only believe half of what you read
Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said "Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see" - or was it Edgar Allen Poe? It really depends which website you believe - and they could all be wrong!
In researching our family history we soon learn to treat information sceptically - but we're not always so careful in the rest of our daily lives, and this can allow unscrupulous people to manipulate the way we think. Whatever I say in this newsletter there will usually be a scare-mongering website or a circulation-hungry tabloid newspaper that will tell you the opposite, but don't assume - as readers sometimes do - that I'm the one who has got it wrong.
Of course, when we read something that we happen to agree with there's a natural tendency to assume that it must be correct - and confirmation bias (the tendency to seek out information that supports our viewpoint, while discarding evidence that refutes it) is something we must continually struggle with as we research our family history. Sometimes we have to make a leap of faith in order to move on, but we mustn't forget that we don't yet have sufficient evidence to prove our hypothesis.
My advice is to apply challenging standards to your own research (I suspect Else Churchill will have something to say about this at Genealogy in the Sunshine next week) but also to apply the same critical thinking to other decisions in your daily lives. I'm not talking about whether you buy this washing powder or that instant coffee, but big decisions such as when to draw your pension or where to invest your savings.
Cheese before pudding
According to this article on the BBC website Mary Berry "has caused consternation among the dinner party-giving classes by suggesting that cheese should come before dessert".
It may have been a shock for some people, but as a red wine lover serving the cheese first has always seemed obvious to me - and finishing a meal with something sweet seems equally natural. We're going to be having quite a few dinner parties in Portugal next week (perhaps it should have been called Gastronomy in the Sunshine) so it will be a chance to see what the assembled LostCousins members think of Mary Berry's statement.
This is where I'll post any last minute news, updates, or offers. I may also post news from Genealogy in the Sunshine - if only to make the rest of you envious!
Thanks for taking the time to read this newsletter - I hope you found some of the articles useful and others thought-provoking!
© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver
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