Newsletter - 5 May 2012
Save on findmypast subscriptions EXCLUSIVE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 16 April 2012) please click here.
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 you 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.
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!
The forecast isn't great for the Bank Holiday weekend, so I decided this would be a great time to arrange a discount at findmypast - and thankfully they agreed! The offer will run from Saturday 5th May to 11.59pm (London time) on Monday 21st May, but in view of the weather outside it probably makes sense to sign up right away and spend the weekend exploring - and adding - to your family tree.
Follow the instructions carefully, because when you save 10% on a findmypast subscription using the exclusive offer code, you can save 100% on a LostCousins subscription. That's right - you can get a free LostCousins subscription that runs for the same period as your new findmypast subscription, so the total saving could be as much as £23.50!
Please note that the offers don't apply to renewals (which already benefit from findmypast's generous Loyalty Discount - see here for full details). But it needn't be the very first time that you've ever had a findmypast subscription - if you are rejoining findmypast after a break you'll still qualify (and you could well be amazed at how much more you get for your money - see the next article!).
During the offer period EVERY findmypast subscription, even the most expensive, costs less than £99, or about 27p a day! What else can you buy for 27p these days - one cigarette, or half a postage stamp? †
Here's how to take advantage of these TWO great offers:
(1) Click here to go the findmypast website (it will open in a new tab or new browser window), then click Subscribe and either register or log-in (if you have registered previously).
(2) Now enter the exclusive offer code LOSTMAY12 in the Promotional Code box, and click Apply to display the discounted offer prices:
Depending on the exact sequence of events you may see a different display - but the information will be the same. The important thing is to make sure that the discounted prices are shown before you select your subscription.
(3) Choose the subscription you prefer, bearing in mind that the 12 month subscriptions offer by far the best value (because the second six months is virtually half price). I'd also recommend the Full subscription unless you're an absolute beginner since the wealth of additional datasets are well worth the small additional cost.
(4) If during the process you are logged out for any reason, or if your credit card isn't accepted, start again at step (1) to ensure that you qualify for your free LostCousins subscription.
(5) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast please forward a copy to me so that I can verify your entitlement. Your free LostCousins subscription can include your spouse or partner as well - just make sure that the two accounts are linked together before you write to me (the Subscribe page at the LostCousins site explains how to do this).
Tip: if you want to share this offer with other researchers, don't simply pass on the code. Instead, please send them a link to this newsletter - because that way they might be inspired to link up with their own 'lost cousins'.
According to research by the Halifax bank that was published in Monday's Daily Mail, gardening is the only hobby where the costs aren't growing. And yet, when I look at how much I spent on researching my family tree 10 years ago I'm convinced that it's far better value now.
For example, the first subscription I took out - to Ancestry - cost me about £65, but only gave me access to one census (1891). There were no parish register images - indeed, hardly any of the resources that I use nowadays were available online then. I could access the 1901 Census online, but it was pay-per-view only, and in the space of 12 months I spent over £150 on that one census!
I remember when 1837online launched - it was the first site to offer online access to the complete GRO indexes of births, marriages, and deaths, but you had to browse each quarter's indexes individually. Checking my records I can see that I spent £240 on credits in 2004 alone! Mind you, it still worked out cheaper and quicker than travelling to the Family Records Centre, and I ended up with a complete set of entries for two of the key surnames in my tree.
In 2007 I took out my first subscription to findmypast (the new name for 1837online). A 12 month Explorer subscription cost £99.95 in those days, but only offered 3 censuses and I still had to browse the GRO indexes.
How have things changed in the space of 5 years? To take out the top subscription with findmypast today would cost just £98.95 for 12 months (provided you take advantage of the discount I've arranged) which is less than you would have paid in 2007, even though the number of complete England & Wales censuses has increased from 3 to 8.
But that's not the only improvement in the course of 5 years - the GRO indexes are now fully searchable, so it takes seconds rather than hours to find an elusive entry, and major resources such as the National Burial Index, tens of millions of parish register entries, transcriptions of 7 Scotland censuses, Army and Merchant Navy records, and key datasets from the Society of Genealogists have all been added.
The cost of BMD certificates aside, I reckon that in terms of what I get for my money, researching my family tree is the cheapest it has ever been!
Ancestry recently revised their Terms & Conditions, and this initially caused some consternation, because the new terms excluded the use of the site by professional researchers. It seems, however, that this was an inadvertent alteration, and the words now refer to "personal or professional family history research".
Around the same time Ancestry announced their 1st quarter results, which showed that they had gained 390,000 new subscribers during the 3 month period, but lost around 220,000 existing subscribers. According to their announcement they spent $88 acquiring each new subscriber, which by my calculations works out at over $34 million - an amazing amount of money, particularly when you consider how many subscribers left during the same period.
There's a saying that it's better to keep the customers you've got rather than spend a fortune looking for new ones, so perhaps they would do better to follow findmypast's example and offer a Loyalty Discount to subscribers who renew?
The old FamilySearch site is not only being superseded by the new one, it is being gradually dismantled. LostCousins member Mike wrote to me recently to complain that it's no longer possible to search any censuses at the old site - which is a shame because the layout of the Household Record was ideal for anyone entering their relatives from 1881 on their My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site. Even using the link on the OldFamilySearch.com website I set up won't help because you'll be redirected by FamilySearch to their new site.
The information you need is still provided at the new FamilySearch site, but not in nearly such a convenient format, and you can't get a single printout that shows the complete transcription for an entire household. My advice is to use findmypast - not only do they offer FREE access to the 1881 England & Wales census transcription, you can get a printout out of the entire household that is even better than the one that FamilySearch used to offer.
Note: Ancestry also offer free access to the 1881 transcription, but you can't easily get a printout that shows an entire household. Even if you're an Ancestry subscriber you'll probably find that findmypast offers a better solution.
Remember that when you're entering relatives from the 1881 Census you should take the information from the transcription, and not from the handwritten census page. Should you wish to include corrections or additional information please do so in the optional section of the form provided for this purpose (but it won't be used in the matching process).
Ancestry have digitised crew lists held at Dorset History Centre with over 50,000 entries. They almost all relate to ships that were registered at Dorset ports such as Weymouth and Bridport, but the crew members could well have come from further afield - indeed I found some who were born as far away as Colchester, Scotland, Germany, and Denmark. You can currently search the records free, but to view the images requires a subscription or credits.
Findmypast have the biggest online collection of crew lists, with over 400,000 entries, including some of the Dorset records you'll find at Ancestry. They also have a huge collection of Merchant Navy records, with over 1.3 million entries.
The UK Biobank charity has recruited 500,000 volunteers aged between 40 and 69 who have donated their DNA, medical history, and details of their lifestyle with the aim of helping researchers to find treatments for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Unfortunately it's now too late to become part of this ground-breaking project, but many of us will benefit from the discoveries that are made - and the impact on the health of future generations could be massive.
Note: because of illness I've only just ordered the kit for the DNA tests that I wrote about in the last newsletter - but hopefully by the time you receive my next newsletter my samples will be on their way back to Family Tree DNA. I can't wait for the results - what a shame the process isn't quite as quick as on CSI!
Last year I wrote about the confusion that can arise from the archaic use of the term 'father-in-law' when referring to one's step-father, and how this might cause confusion when interpreting wills and census entries (you'll find the original article here).
Nowadays we use the term 'nephew' to refer to the son of a brother or sister, but recently I discovered that the word was once used for a grandson. Apparently in Kent this usage was common until quite recently, and searching Google for 'dialect nephew meaning grandson' I discovered that this meaning was also used in Norfolk. The word nephew derives from the Latin nepos which originally meant 'grandson', but apparently it later acquired the same meaning as our word 'nephew'.
Note: the term nephew was also used to describe the illegitimate son of a clergyman.
It's almost exactly 50 years since my Uncle Les died suddenly, at the tragically young age of 39. The strange thing is, although he was by far my favourite uncle, he wasn't really an uncle at all - he was married to my mother's best friend (they met when they worked in the same factory during the War).
The photo on the right shows me on stilts being supported by Uncle Les (I suspect this photo was taken in April 1953, when I was two and a half, because I stayed with my aunt and uncle while my mother was giving birth to my sister). You can see what great times the two of us had together! I often wonder what would have happened had he not been taken from us at such an early age.
I mentioned in this newsletter a year or two back how I'd been fortunate to get a copy of some old cinefilm footage that had been shot by Uncle Les in the 1950s and early 60s - but it was only last year that I discovered that a reel to reel audio tape from 1960 had also survived (the cine film was, of course, silent).
This week, for the very first time, I was able to hear my voice from over half a century ago. Cor blimey, you'd think that I was an East Ender from the way I spoke, though I was born and brought up in Ilford, which was then on the very outskirts of London (there was - and still is - open countryside within 15 minutes walk from our house).
Tape records and cine cameras were an expensive luxury in the 1950s - however, in the 21st century most of us can make recordings for posterity. But do we? When things are commonplace we often value them less, not more.
What will you be leaving behind?
I don't charge for my advice, even though it can be invaluable, but I do find it annoying when having spent an hour or more responding to a member's enquiry they fail to take my advice.
Not long ago I told a member who was reluctant to accept what I told him that "whether or not you follow my advice you'll get the results you deserve". I can't remember his exact words in response (the word 'sarcastic' may have come into it), but all I was doing was giving him the benefit of my long experience. Goodness me, if I didn't know how to get the most out of the LostCousins site after 8 years running it, there really would be something wrong!
One of the great things about LostCousins compared to sites like Facebook is that we're all grown-ups here, so I don't feel the need to tiptoe around the subject - I may not come from Yorkshire, but I nevertheless believe in speaking plainly, and if there's something that needs saying, I'll say it.
If I come across someone who is being selfish - only thinking of their own needs, and not those of the cousins they've yet to meet - I don't hesitate to remind them that LostCousins is for people who want to share information with other researchers who are their living relatives. I'm sure you'd agree that if they still aren't prepared to help their own cousins, then there's absolutely no point them being members!
Tip: half an hour spent entering relatives from the 1881 Census is often all it takes to find your first new cousins - or for them to find you. Remember that it's the brothers, sisters and cousins who had families of their own in 1881 who are most likely to link you to your living† cousins.
Dawn McManus from Hartlepool decided to promote her charity by changing her name - to one that is so long that I'm not going to print it here. The BBC article not only gives her name in full, it also lists some other people who have chosen strange names.
I just hope that the woman formerly known as Dawn doesn't turn out to be a relative of mine - I have a feeling my family tree program wouldn't be able to cope!
Note: it probably wouldn't be possible to register such a long name at birth; according to a 2008 Freedom of Information response the length of a name is restricted by the space available in the register.
Your Family Tree recently printed a feature entitled 'BMDs for Beginners', which was full of useful information - until it came to Ireland. The article implied that you can't search the indexes of births, marriages, and deaths online - which isn't true, as regular readers of this newsletter will know.
At the new FamilySearch site you'll find Ireland births, marriages and deaths from 1864-1958, as well as Protestant marriages from 1845 onwards (Northern Ireland isn't online after 1921, but you can order the films through your local LDS Family History Centre). Although you can't view the index pages online, all the information has been transcribed (with a few errors and omissions, no doubt), so you can place an online order for certificates with the GRO in Dublin, or the GRONI in Belfast.
But there's even better news. FamilySearch not only filmed the indexes, but also some of the registers - again these aren't online, but should be available through your local Family History Centre. Check the catalogue at FamilySearch for the film numbers and to see the period of coverage - if the entries you're looking for were filmed you won't need to pay for certificates!
England & Wales were the first countries in the UK to introduce civil registration in 1837; Ireland followed in 1845 (marriages) and 1864 (births and deaths), then Scotland in 1855 - yet the General Register Office for England & Wales is the only one to completely restrict access to its registers of births, marriages, and deaths.
You can view Scottish registers online at Scotlandspeople, and Irish registers at your local LDS Family History Centre, but - except for marriages that took place in church - the ONLY way to see what's in the England & Wales registers is to buy a certificate.
Perhaps if Sarah Rapson, the Registrar General, were to research her own family tree she might realise what we're up against!
You'd think that given the drop-off in certificate orders since the 2010 increase in prices, that the GRO would want to get their customers' opinions on price. Any commercial organisation would surely want to know whether their customers would buy more at lower prices - but not, apparently, the GRO. They recently invited customers to complete an online survey - but it skirted around the most important topic, as LostCousins member Alan pointed out when he told me what the GRO are doing.
In the last issue I wrote about children whose births were registered simply as male or female. In most cases this was because the children died before a name could be chosen, but I noted a number of instances in which the birth could not be matched with a corresponding death, most of them in the early years of civil registration.
Paul wrote to tell me that after searching extensively for the birth of his great-great grandfather (who was shown as 1 year old in the 1841 Census) he eventually concluded that his birth must have been registered simply as 'male'. Fortunately, when he ordered the certificate it turned out that his hunch was correct. The child was registered just 4 days after his birth, even though the time limit was 42 days - perhaps the registrar didn't fully inform the mother of the regulations?
Remember that some births, marriages, and deaths were announced or reported in local newspapers - there are now over 5 million pages online at the British Newspaper Archive, with an eventual target of 40 million by the end of the decade. You will occasionally find stillbirths recorded in a newspaper - it's probably the only way you'll find out about them.
Tip: if you have a Platinum subscription to Genes Reunited you can get access to the British Newspaper Archive for just under £40 a year.
When you do find yourself in the position where ordering a certificate is the only way to resolve the problem, remember that the GRO no longer requires you to provide the index references. Provided you give them enough other information they'll search a three-year period - and refund your money if they can't find an entry that matches. Thanks to Lawrence for reminding me of this option.
Catherine in New Zealand used local birth indexes to find her relative, who was born in 1838. Local indexes often (though not always) show the mother's maiden name, information that only appears in the GRO indexes from the 3rd quarter of 1911 onwards. Visit UKBMD to find out whether local indexes exist for the areas of interest you.
Note: some births are still registered without a forename being provided. According to a GRO Freedom of Information response in 2010 there were 22 in 2007 and 19 in 2008, of which 3 and 4 respectively had forename(s) added later.
What is a 'nurse child'?
In "HMS Pinafore", by Gilbert & Sullivan, Little Buttercup sings:
A many years ago
When I was young and charming
As some of you may know
I practiced baby-farming.
To these words the chorus respond "Now this is most alarming!" - and indeed, the practice of baby farming did indeed cause much concern in the late 19th century, as I reported in my January 2010 article.
But not everyone who looked after somebody else's child was a baby farmer, in it for the money, and caring little for the welfare of the children who had been entrusted to them. There were also perfectly legitimate cases of women who took in a 'nurse child' - nowadays we would call them foster mothers. This informal arrangement would sometimes be short-term, perhaps because the mother was ill, or undergoing a difficult confinement - but in other cases the child might end up being adopted (until 1927 this would also have been informal).
Of course, there would have been many cases where the child's aunt or grandmother would have helped out - I'm sure most mothers preferred to call on relatives rather than strangers.
Sometimes the child might be looked after in his own home. When the 1911 Census was taken my father's mother was in hospital - although I've yet to discover where - and his elder brother (who was only 7 months old) was being looked after by a live-in nurse. They weren't a well-off family - my grandfather was shown as a lace warehouseman in the census - but my grandmother was often ill, and someone had to look after the children. After my father was born in 1916 he was frequently in the care of a girl called Martha, and as she appears in several family photographs, she must have become almost like a member of the family.
Amanda wrote to tell me that her great-great-great grandfather had, according to his death certificate, "died by the visitation of God", and wondered how unusual this was.
There's a website that interprets and explains archaic medical terms, and it was to this that I turned for an explanation. It seems it was used where there was no obvious cause of death, or where death was an unexpected consequence of an action (such cases would, almost inevitably, be referred to the coroner).
After 1874 it was compulsory to give the cause of death on a death certificate, so the phrase shouldn't appear on later certificates.
300,000 soldiers' wills have been discovered by the Probate Service in cardboard boxes, and it appears that because they were handled by War Office (later the Ministry of Defence) that they have never been entered in the Probate Calendars (which are currently online at Ancestry, and are a key resource for the post-1858 period).
I understand that they relate to soldiers and non-commissioned officers who died during conflicts from the Crimean War up to World War 2, and that they will be made available online before the end of this year.
Tip: if you are searching for naturalisations in the London Gazette archives try both spellings - 'naturalization' as well as 'naturalisation'. The former is more common in early records, the latter in later records.
While you're at the Gazette site try searching for 'aliens restriction', which will find references to the Aliens Restriction Act, 1914 and to Aliens Restriction Orders - some of which include lists of individuals and foreign-owned businesses.
The British Council has recently made available online an archive of over 120 short documentary films dating from the 1940s which were designed to demonstrate the British way of life to the rest of the world in order to counteract any negative propaganda put about by the Nazis. You can view the films free by clicking this link.
Some other film collections that can be viewed free online are British Pathť, the East Anglian Film Archive, and the British Film Institute collection at YouTube. One of the most-recently posted BFI documentaries features a 1938 outing to Southend by a group of old-age pensioners from West London - I bet somebody reading this newsletter will recognise one of them! Click here to take a look.
I've also just been looking at some of the hundreds of films in the BBC Nation on Film collection. I was fascinated to see several films made at Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall as my visit there in 1973 was the only time I've been a mile below the earth's surface.
There are any number of people after your money, and any number of nefarious means that they'll use to separate you from it.
Over the next six weeks 76,732 people will be receiving letters or emails from the Financial Services Authority warning them that they are on one of the lists of 'suckers' that they have uncovered during an ongoing fraud investigation. I bet you it won't be long before the scammers are using similar tactics - perhaps warning about fake emails purporting to be from the FSA!
Mind you, considering that I send out nearly 60,000 emails in the course of 2 or 3 days whenever I issue a newsletter, it does make you wonder why it will take the FSA 6 weeks to contact everyone on their list. It's a bit tough if your name is near the bottom of the list, and the scammers get to you first!
On a more positive note, overseas members - especially in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - can still save between 20-50% on Ancestry subscriptions by switching from their local site to Ancestry.co.uk (see my article in the last newsletter for more details). It's so easy to save, I don't know why everyone hasn't done it!
If you live in the UK you can save over 50% on an Ancestry Premium subscription by purchasing Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum from Amazon (although you have to install the software to activate the free 6 month subscription, you don't have to actually use it). If you're planning to use the software you might prefer to spend a few pounds more for the 2012 version.
Alternatively, save 100% on an Ancestry Worldwide subscription by using your local public library! Most libraries in England (and many in other countries) have a subscription to Ancestry Library Edition, which offers most of the features of a Worldwide subscription - the best that Ancestry offer.
Later this year my wife and I will be going to a family wedding, and because the celebrations will be going on until midnight we've decided to book an hotel room. I never book accommodation without first checking the Trip Advisor website, because it would be foolish to spend money without first checking what other guests have said. Of course, I don't always take their advice - some people are less concerned about dust on top of a wardrobe than others - but at least I make an informed decision. (By the way, I don't just read reviews - I also write them, and I'd encourage you to do the same.)
Another great place for reviews is Amazon. Even if I end up buying elsewhere - which doesn't often happen, because Amazon's prices are usually very competitive - I feel much more comfortable knowing what other purchasers think of the product.
Tip: you can also sell at Amazon - I do from time to time, and I've been very pleased with the results. It's a great way to dispose of items that are sitting in a cupboard unopened (eg unwanted Christmas presents), though you can also sell used or nearly-new goods. If you're prepared to be patient you can get very good prices, especially for hard to find items, or out of print books.
Finally, when you take advantage of the findmypast discount I've arranged (see above for full details) make sure you also take advantage of my generosity by claiming a JOINT subscription to LostCousins. A joint subscription covers TWO LostCousins accounts (normally the second account would be in the name of your spouse or partner, but if you have been widowed you can link with a child, grandchild, or in-law).
This where any last minute amendments will be recorded or highlighted.
Please keep sending in your news and tips - many of the articles in this newsletter result from suggestions from readers like you!
© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver
You may link to this newsletter, and I have included bookmarks so you can - if you wish - link to a specific article by copying the relevant entry in the list of contents at the beginning of the newsletter. However, please email me first if you would like to re-publish any part of the newsletter on your own website or in any other format.