Newsletter - 9 November 2010

 

 

Free military records at Ancestry

1911 Census: surprise joint venture

Time to find Canadian cousins

Protecting living relatives

Posting information online

Can you see what other members have entered?

Genes Reunited discount offer

London parish registers - update

Can you get free access to Documents Online?

Burial records

Photographing gravestones

Howard Hughes' legacy

Practical Family History to cease publication

ScotlandsPeople Centre

Save money on Scotlandspeople credits

The duties of a 1911 housewife

Haven't things changed?

Hospital records

Peter's tips

Stop Press

 

About this newsletter

The LostCousins newsletter is published twice a month on average, and all LostCousins members are notified by email when a new edition is available (unless they opt out). To access the previous newsletter (dated 31 October 2010) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; in due course there will be an online index to articles.

 

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). Note: when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open so that you donít lose your place in the newsletter - you may need to enable pop-ups.

 

Although the newsletters are hosted at LostCousins, they are not part of the main website. Click here to go to the main website and search for your living relatives.

 

Free military records at Ancestry

As Armistice Day approaches Ancestry are offering free access to their three most-viewed collections of British Army records from the Great War! Until 14th November you will be able to search Army Service Records (WO363), Army Pension Records (WO364), or Medal Index cards and view the original records whether or not you have a subscription.

 

However, before you rush off to search these databases it's important to realise that about 75-80% of the Army Service Records were destroyed by enemy action during World War II, so even if your ancestor served in the Great War you're not guaranteed to find him - for example, the records for my grandfather, Harry Calver, who signed up after his brother Herbert was killed at Ypres, are amongst the many that are missing. On the other hand, I did find 17 pages for my 2nd cousin twice removed Sydney Beamont which not only recorded his army exploits but also gave the date and place of his marriage, the maiden name of his wife, and the names and dates of birth of his two eldest children - all in all a very rewarding discoveryÖ.

 

Overall about 2 million, or 40% of the service records for soldiers who served in the Great War have survived, and the other large tranche can be found under Army Pension Records. This title is somewhat of a misnomer - they aren't pension records at all, but the service records of soldiers who were eligible for a pension, or whose service file was requested by the Department of Pensions for some other reason.

 

Almost all soldiers who served during World War I qualified for a medal of some kind, and a brief record of medals awarded can be found on the Medal Index cards. If nothing else it's confirmation that a relative did serve in the army during the Great War, and you'll often find a mention of the 'theatre of war' in which they served. There's a description of each of the medals here.

 

Note: the service records at Ancestry relate to non-commissioned officers and other ranks. Commissioned officers' records are held at the National Archives under WO339 and WO374 and once again many of them were destroyed during WW2.

 

Free Military Content during remembrance week only

 

1911 Census: surprise joint venture

There was a surprising announcement last week from Ancestry and The Genealogist, who are teaming up to produce a new transcription of the England & Wales 1911 census. At least one county is expected to be online before the end of this year, and they hope to finish next summer.

 

The Genealogist recently introduced a new subscription level, the Diamond subscription, which costs £149.45 per annum. Only Diamond subscribers will have access to the 1911 Census when it arrives, and as this is the most expensive subscription on offer at any genealogy site (by quite a wide margin when you allow for the fact that there are no loyalty discounts for subscribers who renew) they'll have to work hard to persuade researchers to switch from either of the two biggest sites.

 

Currently there's no indication about Ancestry's plans. Will they increase their subscription price to pay for the 1911 Census (from memory The Genealogist said it would cost them £3 million to add the 1911 Census when they surveyed subscribers earlier this year, so presumably it's costing Ancestry at least half that amount)? Or will Ancestry introduce a new subscription altogether?

 

Note: you can't use The Genealogist as your source for entries on your My Ancestors page from the 1881 Census - because the transcription they use differs from other sites; it's not clear at this stage whether the site will be a suitable source for entries taken from the 1911 Census.

 

Time to find Canadian cousins

Were any of your relatives in Canada in 1881? Until Christmas you will be able to contact anyone you're matched with through the Canada 1881 census (normally you'd have to subscribe or wait for our next free weekend - which won't be until the end of the year).

 

Tip: it doesn't matter where your ancestors came from or what language they spoke - so long as you have relatives who were recorded on that census I can search for your living relatives.

 

Protecting living relatives

Did you know that it is a breach of the Data Protection Act to publish personal information about a living person without their permission?

 

LostCousins member John recently wrote to me about a problem he's discovered with the Genes Reunited site. Although it allows you to hide living relatives in the tree that other members see, those relatives will still turn up in Search results - in most cases revealing the person's year and place of birth. Will Genes Reunited change their policy now that John has pointed out this flaw? We'll have to wait and seeÖ

 

Posting information online

Always be very careful about what information you post on the Internet - even though most people researching their family tree are honest, most of them are far less experienced than the average LostCousins member, which means you run the risk that your information may be misappropriated and misused.

 

What I do I mean by "misappropriated and misused"? I'm sure that like me you've come across family trees on the Internet which intersect with yours, but have obvious errors - at least, obvious to someone experienced who has carried out their research with care, and documented it meticulously.

 

Personally I wouldn't want my careful research to be bolted onto someone else's tree unless I had confidence that they knew what they were doing - but the danger is that when you're posting information online you're making it available to all and sundry, and 9 out of 10 people who take your data won't get in touch, not even to thank you. Ironically it's often the people with the largest trees who are the worst offenders - or perhaps we shouldn't be surprised because, let's face it, one way of ending up with a large tree is to be a name collector rather than researcher.

 

Can you see what other members have entered?

There's a very simple answer - you can't! But the corollary is that other members can't see your entries either. This means that at LostCousins you can enter information about your relatives knowing that nobody else can see it (apart from me, of course - but I'll only look at your entries in order to help or advise you). Even search engines such as Google can't get at your data!

 

No other website offers such privacy and confidentiality, though that's not surprising - it's only because LostCousins can match cousins automatically and with virtually 100% accuracy that the data can be kept hidden.

 

Even when you've been linked to a cousin they won't be able to see your My Ancestors page - all they'll know is which of their relatives also appear on your page (and your relationship to them). Then, when the time comes to share information with a relative you're not under pressure to give them your entire tree - instead you can email them the data that's relevant.

 

Tip: to see a list of all the relatives that both you and another member have entered just go to your My Cousins page and click on the person's name (or on their initials if they're still in the New Contacts section of the page).

 

Genes Reunited discount offer

Although there are improvements I'd like to see made at Genes Reunited there's no doubt that it can be a useful - indeed I'm currently a subscriber myself. I've just heard about a promotional code that will give a 15% discount on Genes Reunited - but only for new users of their site - the code won't work for existing members.

 

To take advantage of the offer click here, then register entering the code ROADSHOW10 in the Promotional Code box. I understand that the code will be valid for at least a week, but I can't give a definite expiry date at the moment.

 

Note: I wouldn't recommend the Gold and Platinum subscriptions - most researchers would do better at findmypast, which is part of the same group.

 

728x90_Genes Reunited

 

London parish registers - update

In the last newsletter I wrote that Ancestry had finished transcribing the pre-1812 parish registers held at the London Metropolitan Archives - this was based on an article I spotted in Who Do You Think You Are? magazine and supported by a blog posting on the Society of Genealogists website. Unfortunately whilst I purchased an Ancestry subscription to verify this, I didn't have the time to carry out a comprehensive check before the deadline for the newsletter.

 

Eagle-eyed LostCousins member Tricia has pointed out that some of the registers for St Mildred, Bread Street haven't been indexed, and suspects that other parishes may also be affected. This is also a good time to remind you that whilst the LMA holds most of the registers for the London area, some are held by Westminster City Archives, who were - last I heard - planning to make them available online at an unspecified date in the future.

 

Can you get free access to Documents Online

It's a long while since I finished my Open University degree, but LostCousins member Geoff - who is a current student - tells me that he has free access to Documents Online, the section of the National Archives website where you can download copies of pre-1858 PCC wills and many other documents. Each will would normally cost £3.50 to download, so it's a valuable benefit for family historians who are also OU students.

 

For a full list of what's available to OU students check out this page.

 

Burial records

Findmypast has added 233,160 burial records for Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney - full details can be found here. Also new at findmypast are 14,262 Middlesex burials covering the period 1399-1700.

 

Photographing gravestones

Mike wrote to me recently to tell me about his involvement in a project to make a photographic record of Edgerton Cemetery in Huddersfield. I've always found it difficult to take photos of inscriptions, so I asked him what the secret was:

 

"Pick a bright cloudy day to avoid the shadows or catch the sun at an angle to throw the inscription into shadow. On marble I use chalk to make the letters stand out, it washes off with the first rain."

 

Nicola has become a volunteer photographer for the Gravestone Photographic Resource which not only has thousands of photographs but also thousands of links to websites with often obscure, but invariably interesting websites with information of interest to local and family historians. I clicked on one which was a link to a Westminster City Council history of the London street where I worked during the long hot summer of 1976 - sadly the link no longer works, but I suspect that's the fault of the council, not the website.

 

Trevor told me a while ago about the extortionate charge of £31 that Nottingham Cemeteries levy for providing the location of a grave (whereas many councils offer the information free, or for a nominal fee). He was so annoyed that he used the Freedom of Information Act to find out how much they'd raised through this new tax - and it was a little over £1400, which is hardly a king's ransom. Robin Hood used to steal from the Sheriff of Nottingham in order to give to the poor - now it seems it's the other way round.

 

Howard Hughes' legacy

I first heard of Howard Hughes in the early 1970s, when he occupied the top floor of the Inn on the Park, a hotel in London's Park Lane. By then he was an eccentric recluse, so I was surprised to learn that he had once been a film producer who married a film star, an aircraft designer who designed the world's biggest aircraft, and an aviator who set the world air speed record.

 

But what I didn't find out until this week is that in 1953 he founded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, to which he gave his entire holding in the Hughes Aircraft Company.

 

One of the many roles of HHMI is help educate people about health and science, and I stumbled across the site while searching for information about DNA sequencing. I was very impressed by the short narrated animations that I found, each of which explains a particular aspect very clearly and very succinctly (they are mostly only 1 or 2 minutes long). Though I've read a lot of articles and a couple of books about DNA this is the first time I've felt I was really beginning to understand it.

 

Here are links to some of the animations I found enlightening:

 

Coding sequences in DNA

Human genome sequencing

DNA replication

Gene Chip Manufacturing

 

But which ones did you find most helpful? Once you understand a little about how DNA functions the next step is to consider how DNA-testing can aid genealogists - but that's a topic for a future article!

 

Practical Family History to cease publication

According to the Scottish Genes blog written by journalist and LostCousins member Chris Paton, the December issue of Practical Family History will be the last. Earlier this year Ancestors, the magazine published on behalf of the National Archives, also ceased publication - although in that instance a new magazine, Your Family History, arose from the ashes.

 

ScotlandsPeople Centre

In the latest edition of Your Family Tree Chris Paton writes about the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh, where for just £10 you can have unlimited access to their digitised records for one day (over 7 hours). There you can access all of the records that you'll find on the Scotlandspeople website - but with one key difference, the BMD indexes are right up to date.

 

But when something sounds too good to be true it usually is - and in this instance the catch is that you'll be charged 50p a time for A4 printouts and £1 a time for images saved to a memory stick. Click here for a list of all the charges.

 

Save money on Scotlandspeople credits

Did you know that you can buy discounted vouchers for Scotlandspeople in many public libraries in Scotland? Using Google I quickly confirmed that you can do this in Aberdeenshire, Glasgow , Midlothian, and East Renfrewshire, but wherever you live in Scotland it's worth checking whether your local library is taking part.

 

I understand that you can't use these vouchers with an existing Scotlandspeople account - you will need to re-register - but for a 50% saving on your first purchase and a 20% saving thereafter it's surely worth a little bit of hassle?

 

(Thanks to John for this tip)

 

The duties of a 1911 housewife

LostCousins member Nick referred me to a household schedule from the 1911 Census, but didn't tell me why - and I think you might also find it amusing. George Day described himself as a poulterer; this is what he wrote about his wife's occupation:

 

"Attend to her Household Duties, do her own washing, Bake Bread and keep her house clean..

 

So far so good - but then he goes and spoils it

 

" ..and attend to her own Business and leave other People's alone"

 

Oh dear, not much married bliss in that household!

 

Tip: check it out for yourself using a Census Reference search at findmypast - enter the Piece number as 10758 and the Schedule number as 82. In a similar way you can look up any of the other entries from the England & Wales censuses on your My Ancestors page - itís by far the quickest and easiest way to check your entries.

 

Haven't things changed?

When I was sorting out my files recently I came across a newspaper cutting from May 1997 which began with the paragraph:

 

"Just two years ago the average computer had 2Mb of memory, a 20MHz microprocessor, and cost over £1000. Today 64Mb of memory and a 200MHz processor are becoming commonplace."

 

The little Samsung netbook that my wife and I take on holiday has 1Gb of memory, 16 times as much as a desktop in 1997 (and 512 times as much as 1995), and a 1.66Ghz processor that's 8 times faster than in 1997 (and 80 times faster than 1995). And yet it cost under £300!

 

Mind you, even the 1995 computers were powerful compared to the first computer I bought in 1978 - my Commodore PET 2001 had just 8k of memory, and a processor that ran at 1Mhz. Now my 2-year old mobile phone has a memory card the size of a groat (or a modern 5p coin) that holds 8Gb of data, an amazing 1,000,000 times as much, and I've got a TV that can connect to the Internet, or play music files from the hard drive of my desktop computer.

 

But has all this technology made us happier, or were our ancestors more content labouring in the fields and reading by candle-light (that's if they could read at all)? What do you think?

 

Hospital records

In my last newsletter I used hospital records as an example of how the Data Protection Act not only fails to protect data, but also encourages its destruction. As you can imagine, this prompted a number of members to contact me with their own concerns.

 

One member, who was recently diagnosed with a serious condition that should have been picked up long ago, has told me of the impact that the destruction of her records has had on her (some of them were only 10 years old).

 

Another member wrote to me of her frustration that medical records that might have provided clues to her grandfather's parentage had been destroyed, and her annoyance that coroners' records are not kept for longer.

 

Yet another told me of the serious errors in her hospital records that she discovered quite by chance - and then there's the case of the patient who had three separate sets of records in the same hospital, and all because they couldn't spell her Welsh forename. You can imagine what confusion that caused!

 

If you have been in hospital (or had out-patient treatment) in the past 10 years what are you going to do to ensure that the records aren't destroyed?

 

Note: I'm hoping to have a brief meeting with Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, later this month - so if you have suffered as a result of the destruction of your health records, please let me know as soon as possible.

 

Peter's tips

Talking of tips, do you know that the wording that pops up when the mouse pointer hovers over a link is known as a 'tool tip'? I recently discovered how to add these to the LostCousins site, and have added them to most of the items in the menu - which should make it easier for new members (or forgetful old ones!).

 

With Christmas coming up it's useful to know that once again you can save 5% on books of 1st Class stamps at Superdrug - that's a saving of more than 2p on each letter. Mind you, it's better still to get your Christmas cards out early so that you can send them 2nd class, because then you'll save 9p (plus another 2p if you took my advice to buy them before the postage rates went up in April).

 

I've just heard that postage prices may be going up by another 12% in April 2011, adding another 5p to the cost of sending a 1st Class letter, and increasing the cost of a 2nd class stamp from 32p to 36p. At a time when interest rates on savings are miniscule what better investment could there be?

 

Remember what I said in my last newsletter about your Tesco Clubcard vouchers losing 25% of their value at the beginning of December - for example, if you've saved up £250 worth they are currently worth £1000 against a holiday, but from 6th December they'll only be worth £750. It'll still be the best supermarket loyalty scheme, but it would be a shame not to take advantage of this last opportunity to get 4x the value of your vouchers.

 

Although the price of certificates from local register offices is about the same as from the GRO (though some charge extra for postage or for taking credit cards, which complicates matters) there are some hidden advantage in using the local office. One is that you'll often be able to get a marriage certificate which shows your ancestors' signatures, the other is that if you visit in person the staff will sometimes help you to avoid wasting money on the wrong certificate, or one that doesn't have the key piece of information you're looking for (such as the father's name).

 

When the latest issue of Computer Shopper arrived in the post I saw on the cover that there was a review of the Amazon Kindle inside. Having previously recommended the Kindle to members I opened the magazine with some trepidation - what if they disagreed? Fortunately they didn't - not only did they give it 5 stars out of 5, they started off the review by saying "The most astonishing thing about the new Kindle is the price" and ended it with the words "For pure reading pleasure the Kindle is the best reader you can buy." Phew!

 

Finally, I've just heard from Ruth in Canada that Ancestry is available in many of the public libraries there - and as there are well over 6,000 LostCousins members who live in Canada that's very good news!

 

Stop Press

This is where any updates or corrections will appear.

 

That's it for now - I hope you've enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it!

 

peter_signature

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins