Newsletter - 1st January 2013



New Year resolutions for family historians

Good news - findmypast offer extended

Free credits offer also extended

Three days left to save at Family Tree DNA

Birthday Book mystery deepens

Who was Mary Ann Thompson?

Was Queen Victoria a good mother?

Earl of Essex's legacy lives on

Preserving your family's history

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 25 December 2012) please click here; for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here.


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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!



New Year resolutions for family historians

Here's a list of resolutions that will make a real difference - not just to your research but also to you and your relatives.


Check your older research - does it need updating or revising in the light of newly-published or newly-discovered data?


When I started to research my family tree in 2002 there was hardly any information available online, and I know that most LostCousins members have been researching even longer than I have. I bet there are parts of your tree where you could add lots of extra information now that there are so many online resources.


Focus on different lines


We all tend to focus on particular family lines - it's natural to follow our paternal ancestors and our mother's paternal ancestors. This is understandable - after all, they're the surnames that we're most familiar with - yet in terms of who we are, not just genetically but in other ways, our other ancestors are just as important. I suggest that in 2013 you research the 'forgotten' lines - you may be surprised what you discover!


Tip: often this bias is reflected in the entries on our My Ancestors page - we enter lots of relatives from one or two lines, but few from others. Why not give all of our cousins a fair chance to link up?


Handle some original documents

So much of our research is inert - looking at transcriptions or onscreen images, peering at gloomy microfilm. For once ask to see some original documents when you next visit an archive - even if it's not immediately obvious how they might be relevant to your research. I find that handling old documents helps to bring history to life - and I suspect you will too!


Check your contacts list - and get in touch with any relative you didn't communicate with in 2012

Finding cousins is the easy bit - keeping in touch with them is more difficult. But they're not only useful sources of information, they're our flesh and blood, so we owe it to them - and to ourselves - to keep in touch.


Tip: it can be difficult keeping track of so many relatives, especially when you've discovered them in a multitude of different ways - and that's why I find it useful to use the My Cousins page to keep track of everyone, including the relatives I've met on other sites (you can even note when you last contacted each person). To add relatives you already know to your My Cousins page either click the 'Connect to a member you already know' link, or - if they're not already members - invite them to join using the My Referrals page.


Remember that it is better to give than to receive


At this time of year it's particularly appropriate to remember that - especially where our own relatives are concerned - we should be focusing more on giving, and less on taking. Ask not what research, photographs, and certificates your cousin can give you, but what you can give your cousin.


Think the impossible


So many of the 'brick walls' that we're faced with seem impossible to scale, so why not try an experiment - after all, you've got nothing to lose. Imagine for a moment that you have already found the answer you're seeking - feels good, doesn't it? Now ask yourself how you did it - I bet you'll come up with at least one new approach, and quite possibly several ways of cracking the problem.


Learn a new technique


When we first start our research we're forced to learn new ways of doing things, because we don't have any old ways of doing them. But as seasoned researchers we tend to stick to what we know, often shying away from learning new ways of doing things - especially if it means accepting that the old ways aren't quite good enough. For you it might mean going back over your research and noting the source of the information, even if it is a secondary source (such as someone else's tree). There's nothing worse than being unable to answer the question "Where did that information come from?"


Visit your local archives


Even if your ancestors didn't live in the same part of the country, visiting your local archives will enable you to get a better feeling for the types of records that you generally won't find online, from militia lists to rate books, creed registers to electoral rolls. You might even decide to find out more about the area where you live - local history and family history have a lot in common.


Join a family history society


Most family history societies have transcriptions or microfiche copies of registers that are only available to members (or are available at discounted prices), and quite a few offer a research service, again only to members. You might even be able to contribute to a society, by becoming a transcriber, a volunteer, or an officer.


Visit your nearest FamilySearch Centre


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints not only operates the FamilySearch website, the biggest online repository of free genealogical information in the world, it also provides FamilySearch Centres all over the world, where anyone - not just Church members - can access both online and microfilm resources. For example, members in Australia often feel disadvantaged, but with over 120 FamilySearch Centres across the country most of the population live within easy reach of at least one. You will be amazed by how much information is available free - click here to find your nearest Family History Centre.


Try some different websites

We all have our favourite websites, but it's important to remember that whilst there's an overlap between the records you'll find at different websites - most have the censuses and GRO indexes - other records are often unique to a particular site.


For example, Ancestry and findmypast both have lots of military records from the National Archives but they don't overlap. It's the same when it comes to passenger lists: Ancestry has the incoming passenger lists, whilst findmypast has the outgoing passenger lists (which on the whole are the more useful).


For some records from the National Archives you'll have to look beyond the two big sites: The Genealogist has non-conformist registers and pre-1858 PCC wills (which you can also search at the TNA site).


Most public libraries in England (and many in other countries) have subscriptions to Ancestry; a few have findmypast, and a very small number offer both. By using resources at libraries (or at records offices, family history societies, and FamilySearch centres) you can greatly expand the range of records available to you at little or no cost!


Tip: itís not too late to claim the free credits that findmypast are offering to LostCousins members - see the article below.


Good news - findmypast offer extended

2013 starts off with some very good news - have agreed to extend the 10% discount offer that I arranged before Christmas. If you haven't already told those of your friends and cousins who are family historians, why not send them a link to this newsletter right now?


Here's how you and your friends can save up to £16 on a subscription and get a free LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 (total saving up to £28.50). The offer is open to non-members, but you will need to register as a LostCousins member before claiming your free subscription.


I recommend you read the instructions all the way through before starting the process, because there are some important bits at the end.


(1) Click here to go the website (it will open in a new tab or browser window), then either register or log-in (if you have registered previously). If you aren't taken to the Subscribe page automatically, click Subscribe in the top right hand corner.


(2) Enter the exclusive offer code LCXMAS in the Promotional Code box, and click Apply to display the discounted offer prices.


(3) Choose the subscription that's best for you, bearing in mind that 12 month subscriptions offer by far the best value (because the second 6 months is almost half price).


The new World subscription includes Ireland, Australia & New Zealand, and the USA (click on the country name to see precisely which records are included).


If you're only interested in British records then I'd strongly recommend the Full subscription rather than the Foundation subscription, which only offers basic records and is therefore most suitable for beginners. The wealth of additional datasets you get with a Full subscription are well worth the small additional cost, especially when you consider that a subscription to just one of them - the newspaper collection - would cost £79.95 if purchased separately.


(4) If during the process you are logged out for any reason, or if your credit card isn't accepted, you must start again at step (1) to ensure that you qualify for your free LostCousins subscription.


(5) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast forward a copy to me so that I can verify your entitlement (you won't find my email address on the website, but it is in the email I sent telling you about this newsletter). Your free LostCousins subscription will run for 6 or 12 months and 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). If you already have a LostCousins subscription I'll extend it.


Note: these offers cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts or backdated; if your findmypast subscription is renewed automatically you won't qualify, but providing you follow the steps you may qualify for a free LostCousins subscription when you upgrade, ie from Foundation to Full, or from Full to World.


Free credits offer also extended

Whether or not you are a findmypast subscriber you can claim 50 credits, worth over £5, when you click here and use the offer code LCXMASFREE (note that although you'll need to log-in or register, you won't be asked to provide your credit card details).


Tip: if you have friends or relatives who need a nudge to get them interested in family history, why not send them a link to this newsletter ( so that they can take advantage of the offer? It might be just the incentive they need to get started.


Incidentally, there's nothing to stop you claiming your free credits AND getting a discount on a findmypast subscription - but you'll have to be quick because these offers will be ending soon.


Three days left to save at Family Tree DNA

The end of year sale at Family Tree DNA has been extended for 3 days, and now ends on 3rd January.


Not long ago you could have paid £200 or more for a Y-DNA 12 marker test (even now Oxford Ancestors charge £199 for a 15-marker test). But if you're quick you can order a 37-marker test for $119 plus postage (about £80 in all).


And if your surname happens to be CALVER, please join the Surname Project I've recently started! Of course, there are thousands of other surname projects, most of which have been in existence much longer than mine.


Tip: although I've focused on the Y-DNA test, which is the most useful of all DNA tests, almost all of Family Tree DNA's tests are on sale at substantially discounted prices.


Birthday Book mystery deepens

I've had lots of entries for the Birthday Book challenge in my last newsletter, but most of the entrants have assumed that because there are two people with the same surname, the book must have belonged to one of them.


The pages reproduced here in my last newsletter were a random sample - perhaps the new pages that follow will cause entrants to have a rethink?







One very astute entrant mentioned a certain Victor Francis Gaby in her entry - she'll be particularly interested to see the entry on April 8. I wonder how long it will take other entrants to make the connection?


The March 26 entry is also an intriguing one - I'll be interested to know what YOU make of it? I've also included the entry from February 29 - that surely can't be too difficult to pin down, since you know the year of birth must be divisible by 4.


Remember, the challenge is to figure out who owned the book (and there seems to have been at least two owners) and explain how the people in the book were linked. If the puzzle still hasn't been solved by the time my next newsletter is published I'll include some more pages - but I'm fairly confident that one of you will come up with a convincing solution before then!


Who was Mary Ann Thompson?

If that challenge from the early 20th century isn't enough to keep the midnight oil burning, maybe this puzzle from the early 19th century will!


After the story in my last newsletter about William Jennens, the Suffolk miser who may have been the inspiration behind two of Charles Dickens best-known novels, I received an email from LostCousins member Richard, who came across another intriguing miser while researching the history of a 250 year-old Suffolk company.


"Tom the Cadger", otherwise Thomas Drisdell, was a scalemaker working for a firm in Clerkenwell. It was only after he died in the workhouse in 1823 that it was discovered that, despite his demeanour, he was exceedingly rich - according to a contemporary newspaper report his assets were valued at £1700, which is over £1 million in today's money. He left the whole of his estate to his illegitimate daughter, Mary Ann Thompson, who was only about 13 years of age - but who was her mother, what happened to Mary, and what happened to her money? I'd be very interested to know what you're able to come up with, and I'm sure Richard would be too! You can read the newspaper article in full if you follow this link.


Interestingly Charles Dickens was about the same age as Mary, and I believe her would have been living nearby at the time. Might the story have inspired one or more of his novels?


Was Queen Victoria a good mother?

An article on the BBC website presents a picture of Queen Victoria that was new to me - it seems she had an uncontrollable desire to micro-manage the lives of her children.


A three-part series about Queen Victoria and her children begins tonight, at 9pm on BBC2. If you miss the programme you can catch up on BBC iPlayer (provided you live in the UK).


Earl of Essex's legacy lives on

The earldom of Essex was created many times. For 35 years, from 1566-1601 (when he became the last person to be beheaded in the Tower of London), the title was held by Robert Devereux - a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. However, an earlier holder fell out of favour with the then monarch far more quickly.


Thomas Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith who had risen to become one of the most powerful men in England, was created Earl of Essex by Henry VIII on 18th April 1540. However, on 10th June - less than 8 weeks later - he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Stripped of his titles he was executed at Tower Hill on 28th July 1540 (though he might be said to have got his revenge when his great-great-great nephew Oliver Cromwell signed the warrant for the execution of King Charles I in 1649).


Thomas Cromwell is the subject of two Booker Prize winning novels by Hilary Mantel - but these aren't the books which most interest family historians. In 1535 Thomas Cromwell was appointed Vicar General by Henry VIII, and in 1538 he ordered that every parish should keep a register of baptisms, marriages, and burials.


Without parish registers researching our family trees would be far more difficult than it already is - so we have reason to be thankful to this particular Earl of Essex.


Note: you'll find a brief history of parish registers on the Joiner Marriage Index website.


Preserving your family's history

Many of us have inherited photographs, books, documents, and all manner of ephemera from our ancestors, and whilst we're grateful that they have survived as long as they have, we're often not sure how to preserve them for the benefit of future generations.


I was therefore delighted to find a very comprehensive PDF guide on the website of the Staffordshire Record Office - you can download it here.


Peter's Tips

I mentioned recently that grapefruit can interfere with some medications, and shortly afterwards my wife pointed out this article about a man who had to be hospitalised after eating too many Brussel Sprouts. I only hope that this warning has not reached you too late....


Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of Amazon - and that they don't just sell books. This year I've bought dozens of things, ranging from a non-stick milkpan and the best salad spinner I've ever seen, to a Kindle for 85-year old my mother-in-law - and even if I don't buy from Amazon in the end, I always look for reviews on the Amazon site because they tend to be the most reliable user reviews around. However, books are what they do best, so I thought you might be interested in their Editors' Picks of 2012.


Christmas is a time for over-eating and over-spending but I think I've managed pretty well this year, certainly on the latter count. For example, on New Year's Eve I cooked a slap-up meal for four people - and whilst it may look expensive it most certainly wasn't:


Baked Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese


Whole Dover Sole with New Potatoes, Sugar-Snap Peas, and Fine Green Beans


English and Continental cheeses served with Fruit and Nut Bread


Plums baked with Honey, Cinnamon, and Orange; home-made Vanilla Ice Cream and Meringues


Sounds pretty extravagant, doesn't it - yet almost all the ingredients were bought from the reductions shelves at my local supermarket, saving as much as 80%. The total cost was £17, or £4.25 per head - about halfway between the cost of a Big Mac and breakfast at a Little Chef - even though the portions were very generous.


Anyway, the point of this is not to impress you with how canny (some might say miserly) I've been, but to encourage you to find out what time your favourite supermarket makes its final reductions. In my case it's 7.30pm (except Sunday), but it's almost certainly going to be different where you live.


Finally, I received an offer I most definitely could refuse from Ancestry today - a mere 25% off a Premium subscription. As UK readers of this newsletter know very well, it's possible to get a free 6 month Premium subscription by buying Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum - which currently costs just £19.99 from, or a free 6 month World subscription by buying Family Tree Maker 2011 World, which cost £32.99 when I last checked.


Those offers aren't available outside the UK, but overseas readers can still make big savings - if you live in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand click here.


Stop Press

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 use of your membership of my site to link with the cousins you don't yet know (your 'lost cousins').


All that remains now is for me to wish you all the best for 2013!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver


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