Newsletter - 23rd July 2014
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The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 12th
July) 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.
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 don’t 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!
I'm not someone who visits Facebook very often, and I'd imagine that the same goes for most people reading this newsletter. But when I heard that findmypast had posted a half-price subscription offer on Facebook I had to take a look, since it sounded too good to be true - and indeed, when I found findmypast's Facebook page there was nothing about the offer.
But amazingly I was able to confirm that the offer DOES exist, though it's scheduled to finish on 31st July, and may be withdrawn earlier if findmypast reach their sales target (which, quite frankly, wouldn't be a surprise).
Best of all, you don't have to visit Facebook to take advantage of the offer - just click here and you'll be able to buy a 12 month subscription which gives unlimited access to all of findmypast's British records for the amazing price of just £49.75
If that link stops working for any reason I'll update this article with new instructions (or news that the offer has ended early, whichever is appropriate).
Note: this offer is not exclusive to LostCousins members, but by using the link you'll be supporting LostCousins as well as securing yourself an unprecedented bargain. If you decide to share the good news with other researchers please forward a link to this newsletter rather than passing on the offer code.
Naturally the offer is designed to attract new subscribers, so isn't available to existing findmypast subscribers. However if you've been a subscriber at some point in the past, but your subscription has lapsed, you should qualify (it will only take a moment to find out).
The enhanced, up-to-date, indexes of Irish births, marriages, and deaths that I announced in my last newsletter have now disappeared, possibly for ever.
At the time I was a little surprised at how much modern personal data was being published (including precise birthdates), and it now seems that nobody thought to get Data Protection clearance. See this Guardian article for more details.
However the potentially more important project, to put historic birth, marriage, and death registers online is still going ahead, and a bill to put this into effect has just been published - see Claire Santry's blog for more details.
Ancestry.co.uk have recently uploaded over 62,000 Naturalization Certificates and Declarations covering the period from 1870-1912 and held by the National Archives.
Most immigrants didn't seek British citizenship, but if you have foreign ancestry it's certainly worth checking - bear in mind that those seeking citizenship had often been in the UK for quite a long time before submitting their application.
Tip: the London Gazette is another useful source - you may need to search under both spellings of the word 'naturalization'.
1800 Staffordshire parish registers, containing over 2.8 million indexed entries, have gone online at findmypast - as predicted in my January newsletter - and as a result many 'brick walls' have come crashing down, and many members how have copies of the original register entries to replace the transcriptions that were previously their only source.
For example, Lionel wrote that "I already have most of the events – from the IGI and other sources, but rarely with the image, and have already picked up some extra info such as actual birth date (a real bonus) and occupation. When compared with how we used to have to travel and sit for hours at microfilm readers etc or employ local researchers, it is a boon to sit at home and access one's ancestors' original parish records. For me, this more than compensates for the cost of the subscription. I was among those not pleased with the site’s revamp earlier this year, but this facility contains all the ease of use that I, at least, could desire. One can search by parish or whole county and with as many or as few details as one wishes."
Jean drew my attention to the comments written alongside the register entry for Sarah, the illegitimate daughter of Mary Sutton, who was baptised at Barlaston on 25th October, 1752 - just one of the joys of seeing the original registers!
Tip: from July 1837 onwards marriage register entries are as good as certificates - and you'll also get to see your ancestors' handwritten signatures - which you almost certainly won't see in a certificate from the GRO. When you consider that just one certificate costs £9.25 from the GRO, or £10 from the local register office, a monthly subscription to findmypast (offering unlimited access to all their British records) looks rather cheap at £9.95!
Nearly 200 parishes are included in this first phase, and eventually there will be 3400 registers with nearly 6 million records in all, although no dates have been given for the second phase (my guess is that we won't see them until 2015).
Follow this link for a list of the parishes included in this release which includes the dates of coverage by type of event. Use the links below to go to the dedicated search pages:
Note: see the next article for some tips on searching parish records at findmypast.
If you have ancestors from parts of Staffordshire, such as Dudley, which are now in another county I'm afraid they won't be included in the Staffordshire Collection as the parish registers are no longer held by Staffordshire Archives (you can check which registers are held using the Staffordshire Place Guide).
Only Anglican registers are included - if your ancestors were non-conformists or Catholics you may find their marriages between 1753-1837 (when everyone other than Quakers and Jews had to marry in the Church of England), but you won't find their baptisms. However, not all non-conformist churches had their own burial grounds, so you may find your ancestors in the parish churchyard.
Phases 3 and 4 of the project will include around 250,000 Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry wills, and around 180,000 marriage allegations and bonds. You can read more about this project here.
Tip: although findmypast is the only site to have images of the registers, there are other sites where you'll find transcribed records, such as FreeREG, Wolverhampton History, and the Staffordshire Burial Indexes (which cover municipal cemeteries). A good way to find out whether anyone has transcribed the registers for the parish(es) you're interested in is to visit the FamilySearch Wiki.
The release of the Staffordshire records was announced a few days after my last newsletter was published, so rather than make members wait until the next issue, I wrote a program to identify members who had entered on their My Ancestors page direct ancestors who were living in Staffordshire in 1881. I then sent a short email to those members inviting comments on this new resource so that I could include them in this newsletter.
I got an extremely varied response - some members were absolutely delighted with the new records, but others were struggling to find any results. In a few cases this was because their parishes of interest weren't in this first phase, but it soon became apparent that many members, including existing findmypast subscribers, simply weren't familiar with the search strategies that are possible at the new site.
Indeed, if you hadn't read the tips article from my April newsletter you might not have been aware that there are four different ways to search parish records at the new findmypast site. Which of these you choose depends on what information you're starting with - but in most cases the best approach is to search one record set at a time which, as it happens, is exactly what I used to do at the old findmypast site.
To search a specific record set - such as Staffordshire baptisms - choose the bottom entry from the Search records menu at the findmypast site:
The A-Z of record sets is a long list of all the different records in the findmypast collection. There are currently 1240 to choose from if you have a World subscription - and even if you restrict the list to British records there are still 505 (over 100 of which have been added since the new website went live at the end of March).
Fortunately you don't have to plough through the list to find the records you want. The quickest way to get to them them is to start typing in the Search box, for example:
As you can see, by the time I've typed S-T-A-F there are just 5 record sets listed, 4 of which are the new Staffordshire records. Let's suppose I want to search for baptisms:
This dedicated search form not only allows me to specify the name of the person I'm looking for, I can also give the forenames of the parents. This is very useful when you want to look for siblings - and even if the names are very common ones, as in the example above, you won't be overwhelmed by results (so there is absolutely no need to limit the initial search to particular parishes).
Tip: searching for siblings is one of the most important things we do when we're tracing our ancestors, because it allows us to see them in context, and so helps us to prove that we've found the right baptism.
At the old findmypast site you would be forced to provide a surname (at the new site none of the boxes need to be filled in). This is very handy when you're looking for ancestors whose surname is rare or where the spelling varied widely as you could, for example, search for all the boys called John who were baptised in a particular parish.
Searching for marriages is also much easier than at the old site, where you couldn't specify the forename of your ancestors' spouse even though you this was the one piece of information you'd usually have (either from the census or from the baptisms of the children):
Although I've used the Staffordshire parish registers to illustrate this article, you can use similar search techniques with many other major parish record collections at findmypast, including Canterbury (Kent), Cheshire, Hertfordshire, Plymouth & West Devon, Shropshire, Wales, and Westminster.
So whilst there are still plenty of doomsayers who regret the loss of the old findmypast site, if you're trying to find parish records the new site really is far better.
Tip: when you want to search the same record set again, don't click 'New Search' as this will take you to a different page - instead click 'Edit Search'.
As I was finalising this newsletter I discovered that 55,000 Wiltshire baptisms have just gone online at findmypast, so that there are now 580,000 transcribed baptisms covering the period 1530-1886. Interestingly the oldest entries, for Salisbury, pre-date the introduction of parish registers by Thomas Cromwell in 1538 by some 8 years.
I mentioned earlier that finding the baptisms of our ancestors' siblings helps to prove that we're researching the right family, and I felt it would be helpful to expand a little further - by describing some of the techniques I've used to untangle some of the knotty problems I've encountered during my research.
For example, there might be two couples in the same parish (or in adjoining parishes), with exactly the same names - so how can you possibly work out which children belong to which parents (assuming the vicar hasn't thoughtfully distinguished them in some way)? How can you even be sure that it is two families rather than one?
I have a very simple technique which works beautifully most of the time. I start by recording all the baptisms in date order - then I look at the Christian names of the children. If the same first name appears more than once, then either the first child must have died or there are two families - and a search of the burial register usually confirms which.
If I'm still not sure whether there is one family or two, I look out how many children were baptised in a given period - because, barring multiple births, there's a physical limit to how quickly mothers can produce children! I also look at the intervals between successive baptisms (or births if the vicar has kindly supplied that information); if there's less than 9 months between successive baptisms this suggests that the two children had different parents, though because the gap between birth and baptism can vary, even within the same family, it isn't as foolproof guide.
From 1813 onwards baptism register entries give the occupation of the father and his abode - though vicars did sometimes make mistakes, and confuse one couple with another (it's not unusual to see the wrong name for the mother).
Additional clues come from the marriage registers - siblings are often witnesses - and sometimes from death certificates (since the relationship of the informant can be revealing). Wills can be a very fertile source, and not necessary the obvious wills - the clue that linked my great-great-great grandparent with her sisters (and therefore her parents) came from the will of her brother-in-law.
You won't always be splitting families into two - I once puzzled long and hard about two couples whose children were baptised in adjoining parishes before eventually proving beyond reasonable doubt that it was actually only one family which had zigzagged across the parish boundary! Another tricky situation to watch out for is where a widower marries a woman who has the same forename as his dead wife - this happened more often than you might think (and not only when the forename was a very common one like Mary, Ann, or Elizabeth).
Tip: identifying siblings can also reveal the mother's maiden name, most commonly in the situation where your direct ancestor was born before civil registration began, but a sibling was born after.
Thanks to everyone who has sent me the letters that they'd love to be able to send to one of their ancestors - asking, telling, thanking or simply wishing.
It's your last chance to submit the letter you'd like to send to your ancestor - if you missed the earlier article you'll find it here.
In the last newsletter I quoted Andy's example of the way in which his research had been bowdlerised, and this prompted an email from Virginia:
"Would just like to comment on the Private Tree vs Public tree at Ancestry issue. I understand others' concerns that their trees are misused. However, what happens if the owner of the private tree dies suddenly? Is all their painstaking research lost forever? I am proud of my public tree and if others want to help themselves they're more than welcome to my research which I am happy to share with others."
That's a good point - however, but the obvious solution isn't always the best one. Here's my reply:
"I'm afraid that publishing your tree for all to see isn't the answer - as people take your information and misuse it the value of your research falls.
"Even during your lifetime you'll see it degrade - and once you're no longer around to point out the errors they'll grow uncontrollably until eventually the web of lies constructed around your tree completely overwhelms your careful research.
"Rather than give your research away indiscriminately, it's surely far better to exchange information with cousins whose research skills you respect and whose friendship you value? That way your research will not only live on, it will continue to grow in a healthy manner."
It's also worth reminding you that on your My Details page at LostCousins you can enter the email address of the person you'd like to take over your research when the time comes, or at least preserve it for future generations. I'd also suggest leaving a note with your will addressed to your executors to ensure that they understand how important your research is to you, and suggesting how best it might be preserved.
Researchers have found that, on average, our friends are genetically as close to us as our 4th cousins - so that might explain why I get on so well with the so-called distant cousins I've found since I began my research (you can read more here, in this BBC article).
But that's not all - another researcher reckons that we're genetically closer to our spouses than we are to randomly-selected individuals from the same population. I wonder what impact that has on evolution?
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I've read every copy of YFT since the very first issue, and yet I still learn something new from the experts every month!
Most of you figured out the answer to question I posed last time about the 13 year-old cricket star whose achievement was reported in the Blackburn Standard in 1899. They described him as an orphan, yet the writer of the British Newspaper Archive blog discovered that his mother was still alive on the 1901 Census.
Who was right? The newspaper got it right - in Victorian times an orphan was someone who had lost one or both parents, and indeed when I checked by father's 1939 Pocket Oxford Dictionary I noticed that even then it defined an orphan as "Bereaved of parent(s)". In fact this definition is still used today by UNICEF!
Going back to the young A E J Collins, Peter (another one) did some further research, discovering that he soon became an orphan by anyone's definition, because his mother died in 1904. The family continued to be hit by tragedy - 10 years later, and almost exactly 100 years ago, Arthur E J Collins went to war as a Captain in the Royal Engineers. He was killed at Ypres on 11th November 1914, having been mentioned in despatches - he was just 29.
As Saturday was the day of the Monty Python team's penultimate performance it was somewhat surreal to read this article on the BBC website about the Victorian women who really did did silly walks.
A week ago I was at the Zopa birthday party in London, where I not only met other savers but also Giles Andrews - who co-founded the peer-to-peer pioneer and is now its CEO. Coincidentally it's almost exactly 2 years since I first wrote about Zopa in this newsletter asking for feedback - and it was only after I got some extremely positive reports from members who were already investors that I took the plunge myself. I'm certainly glad that I did!
(I've also tried Funding Circle, which channels money to businesses, but though the returns are higher it's a little more complicated and significantly more risky.)
Another clever idea comes from Albelli, who I believe are still Europe's largest photo book company. They've had offers before, but there never seems to be enough time to get all the photos together before the offer runs out - however, this time they're giving me a month after the offer ends to create the book. It's an enormous discount (they say 41%, but it's actually 59%), so I'm really tempted.....
I occasionally get criticised for mentioning how readers can save money at Tesco on the basis I'm recommending that people shop there - but I'm not, I'm merely suggesting ways in which those of us who do shop there (about a quarter of the English population) can save money. I was delighted to see recently that the Tesco boss had been fired: they lost their way years ago, when they hived off "customer service" into a separate department with little or no connection to the rest of the store (and sadly they're not the only ones).
If you have spare Tesco Clubcard vouchers you might want to exchange them for a copy of Family Tree Maker. I don't recommend it as a program - I can't, because I've never used it - but it comes with a free 6 month subscription to Ancestry, which may well justify the cost even if you never use the software.
Finally - as I know that LostCousins members like coincidences - my wife and I went up to London yesterday for the Oldie Literary Lunch (Irma Kurtz, John Carey, and James Naughtie were the speakers - all excellent, wish I could say the same of the MC), only to discover that the gentleman who was sitting opposite us lives in our village. What a small world!
This is where I'll post any last minute additions.
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter - I hope you find it useful.
© Copyright 2014 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 this newsletter to copy the link. But why not invite them to join?