Newsletter Ė 6th November 2014

 

 

Free weekend at Findmypast ENDS NOON MONDAY

Irish certificate scam Ė donít be fooled

Where are your family Bibles?

LostCousins is FREE this weekend ENDS TUESDAY

Census reference checking gadget proves popular

What lies beneath London?

Read all about it! Half price newspapers at British Newspaper Archive

Empress of Ireland - your stories

When truth can be stranger than fiction

Don't rely on transcriptions

3 days free OR 73 days free Ė you choose ENDS TODAY

Peter's Tips

Stop Press

 

The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 29th October) 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. Or use a Google search prefixed by 'site:lostcousins.com'
 

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). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - try disabling it temporarily (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).

 

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!

 

Free weekend at Findmypast ENDS NOON MONDAY

Between 12 noon (London time) on Friday 7th November and the same time on Monday 10th November EVERYONE will have virtually unlimited FREE access to Findmypastís entire Worldwide collection of historical records and newspaper articles.

 

Note: Findmypastís modern records - the 2002-13 Electoral Roll and Company Directors index - are excluded from this offer. There is also a limit to the number of historical records you can view, but itís set at 1000 per day, and thereís little chance youíll get anywhere near the limit.

 

You donít need an offer code Ė simply click the appropriate link from the four below to go to the special page at your preferred Findmypast site.

 

BRITAIN: Findmypast.co.uk

IRELAND: Findmypast.ie

USA: Findmypast.com

AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND: Findmypast.com.au

 

All of the sites offer the same records and the same searches, so you need only visit one site.

 

Note: though you will need to register or log-in (if youíve already registered), you wonít be asked to provide credit card or bank details.

 

Existing subscribers arenít forgotten: subscribers with Local subscriptions, eg Britain, Ireland, US & Canada or Australia & New Zealand will have access to worldwide records over the weekend, so itís a great opportunity to track down those relatives who seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth! And whilst World subscribers already have access to all of Findmypastís records, they havenít been forgotten either - Findmypast are going to extend their subscriptions by 3 days.

 

Tip: 12 noon in London is 11pm in Sydney, 7am in New York, and 4am in California.

 

Irish certificate scam Ė donít be fooled

Katherine wrote to me recently, concerned that the cost of Irish birth, marriage, and death certificates had shot up to 40 Euros Ė an extortionate amount.

 

I eventually worked out that Katherine had been looking at this site:

 

 

Itís perfectly legal to sell goods at high prices Ė but this site goes out of its way to hide the fact that it isnít a government site so that it can charge 40 Euros for certificates that ought to cost 20 Euros.

 

 

Whilst it admits that itís a private company (if you go right to the end of the terms and conditions), it then goes on to say "which was funded and set up with government support" - a statement that might be thought by some to imply official endorsement.

 

If you want to order Irish certificates online, I recommend you get them from the official government site (which you'll find here) and nobody else. However, family historians don't usually need a certificate - an uncertified copy of the register entry is perfectly adequate for most researchers - and it costs just 4 Euros.

 

Where are your family Bibles?

I'm always envious when I hear of people who have inherited a family Bible which sets out the genealogy of their ancestors - because in my family those Bibles must have ended up with distant cousins who I've yet to discover.

 

I conceived of LostCousins - more than 10 years ago - primarily as a way of bringing together distant cousins so that they could share the photographs, memories, and tangible possessions that had been passed down within the family.

 

After all, there's a limit to what we can find in public archives - few of us are so lucky as to discover our family papers in the vaults - so when we're trying to turn our family trees into family histories we need to work really hard. Even now that so many newspapers are available online we're only going to learn about the relatives who did something - good or bad - that was in some way notable (and that's assuming that the newspapers got it right - a big assumption!).

 

Of course, we can simply guess - as some do - how our ancestors and their families lived, adding flesh to the bare bones in the way that biographers of historical figures must surely do on occasions. But whilst it might fill our need to write down our ancestors' stories, we may be doing them a disservice by our inventions - particularly since future generations might assume that what we've written is gospel (as we may sometimes do when looking at the writings of earlier historians, or the genealogies that were produced centuries ago in order to make some claim to nobility).

 

So let's all do what we can to discover our cousins and share what we have with them. We may never know all the truth, but let's at least strive to find out what we can!

 

LostCousins is FREE this weekend ENDS TUESDAY

This weekend LostCousins will be free - it's a great opportunity to research your collateral lines and add extra relatives to your My Ancestors page so that you can connect with other researchers who are your 'lost cousins'.

 

I've arranged this at short notice to coincide with the free weekend at Findmypast, because whilst the 1881 England & Wales Census transcription is always free, tracking your collateral lines through to 1881 requires access to earlier censuses (and in some cases, parish records). Whilst the Findmypast offer runs from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, the LostCousins offer starts now and runs right through until Tuesday evening!

 

Normally you'd need to be a LostCousins subscriber to contact someone new (ie someone in the New Contacts section of your My Ancestors page), but until midnight on Tuesday all members can contact people they've been matched with.

 

Tip: to benefit from this offer you don't need to get a reply before it ends - just make sure you click the Make Contact button while the offer is still running. And unlike many other sites, once you've made contact with someone at LostCousins you can continue to correspond with them whether or not you're a subscriber.

 

To make the most of this opportunity use Findmypast to identify your direct ancestors' extended families, and enter them on your My Ancestors page as you go.

 

A good strategy is to start from the 1841 Census and trace your ancestors' brothers, sisters, and cousins as they marry then have children and (eventually) grandchildren. For every relative recorded on the 1841 Census you're typically going to find 5 to 10 relatives in 1881 - but it can be more, because in the second half of the 19th century infant mortality was starting to fall.

 

Right now you might be thinking - what's the point of entering such distant relatives? But in reality they're not really that distant - someone who shares your great-great grandparents is a 3rd cousin of yours; someone who shares your great-great-great grandparents is a 4th cousin. These are the most valuable cousins to find - sufficiently distant that you're unlikely to know of them, but sufficiently close that they share a significant chunk of your tree.

 

Tip: a great way to identify the relatives you can enter at LostCousins is to use the free Family Tree Analyzer program for Windows written by a talented LostCousins member. You can download it here.

 

Census reference checking gadget proves popular

Thanks to everyone who has written to tell me how useful they've found the new feature on the My Ancestors page which allows you to check the census references you've entered with a single click.

 

Of course, it's not only a great way to check entries you've made in the past - you can use it to check an entry you've just made. In fact, the very best time to use the new gadget is after entering the head of household, but before entering other members of the household.

 

See my article in the last newsletter for more details.

 

What lies beneath London?

I thought his article on the BBC website was very interesting - I'm sure there are plenty of other cities with a similar tale to tell!

 

Read all about it! Half price newspapers at British Newspaper Archive

Until Wednesday 12th November you can buy a 12 month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive for half-price, that's £39.98 instead of £79.95

 

Whilst this offer is clearly aimed at Ancestry subscribers, who don't have access to an equivalent resource, I know that some Findmypast subscribers prefer the more advanced features offered by the BNA's search.

 

To take advantage of this offer (and support LostCousins) follow this link and use the offer code NOVEMBER12

 

Empress of Ireland - your stories

I was amazed to discover how many LostCousins members lost relatives when the Empress of Ireland sank on 21st May 1914.

 

Claire's great uncle and his wife were amongst 167 members of the Salvation Army on board the ship that fateful night; they and most of their colleagues perished (only 8 survived). Betty wrote from Australia to tell me that her great-grandfather, a Commissioner in the Salvation Army, was subsequently sent to Canada to replace the Territorial Commander of Canada East, who was amongst those who were lost.

 

Valentine's great-aunt Alma Fedora Maud Assafrey (photo, right) had gone to Canada to marry her fiancť, but a month later she was on her way back home, still single - nobody knows why. She never made it.

 

Martin in South Africa told me that his wife's grandfather Alexander Craik was a steward on the ship, but although over half the crew survived, he wasn't one of the lucky ones - he left 6 children fatherless.

 

Margaret's great-great-great uncle Ralph Spooner, his wife Margaret and daughter-in-law Mary all died on the Empress; they were returning to England to live out their days, having emigrated to Canada in 1903.

 

Ed also lost 3 relatives: Martha Braithwaite, and her sons William and John. Chris lost 4 family members: her great aunt Mary McGachen perished, along with her two daughters and an infant. Sadly, only 4 children out of 138 survived when the ship sank.

 

Note: if you have access to the British Newspaper Archive there are several articles about the sinking in the North-Eastern Daily Gazette of 2nd June 1914, one of which mentions Mrs McGachen and her family.

 

There was just one member who could report that her relatives had survived - and thank goodness they did, because otherwise Denise wouldn't have been born! When the Empress of Ireland sank her grandparents Thomas and Margaret Greenaway were on their honeymoon, having married just one week earlier.

 

Part of the large Salvation Army contingent, Margaret later wrote a letter describing her terrifying experiences and explaining how in the chaos she became separated from her new husband, with the result that for some time afterwards each of them believed that the other had drowned. This brief extract will give you some idea of what she went through (but you'll find the entire letter here):

 

 

Earlier this year Denise and her two sisters attended the event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the disaster in Rimouski, Quebec - close to where the liner capsized. Not surprisingly it was an extremely emotional event - everyone there had a tale to tell, though of course it was all hearsay, the last survivor having died about 20 years ago.

 

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their stories - I'm only sorry that it hasn't been possible to include all the information I've been sent. But there's one more story that I've yet to tellÖÖ

 

When truth can be stranger than fiction

I'm sure that many of you will, by now, have finished reading Steve Robinson's latest genealogical novel, The Lost Empress which starts with the question "Did Mrs Stilwell drown when the Empress of Ireland sank in the St Lawrence river on that fateful night in 1914?".

 

Genealogist Jefferson Tayte is employed by a client who believes his grandmother was on the ship - but she is listed in all the records as one of those who perished, as was her husband. But did she did survive - and if so, why would Alice Stilwell not return to England and her two young children?

 

I'd just finished reading the book when Andrew wrote to me from Australia with an amazing tale - his wife's great-grandmother died when the Empress of Ireland went down, but she wasn't shown on the casualty lists. I'll let Andrew pick up the taleÖ.

 

"Mary Ann Griffin was on a solo world trip. She was a 53 year-old widow with 14 children - the youngest was only 13. Her husband, a prominent brickmaker, had died nearly 10 years earlier. It always intrigued us that her name wasn't on the official list, and that her death wasn't announced in the local newpapers. The first notice in the papers was more than a year afterwards when probate was granted on her estate. We also wondered about why she would make such a trip by herself.

 

"There were only two people from South Australia on the official list of deaths: a Mr Richardson and his wife. However, Richardson had been estranged from his wife for many years and so she certainly did not die in the disaster. Coincidentally, he was also a prominent brickmaker who lived less than a mile from Mary Ann, and had been her local councillorÖ. suddenly the penny dropped!

 

"Interestingly this liaison was only revealed in the last 12 months - we didn't have a sniff of the scandal. The Richardson family found it out - after all, they'd been looking for the 'other woman' for years. Mary Ann's relatives must surely have known, but if so they kept it very quiet.

 

"Their passages to Vancouver via New Zealand had been separately booked, but the booking for the Empress of Ireland was made in Vancouver, prior to a few weeks travel in the US and Canada. Apparently the plan was to travel together until the end of the trip, when the final voyage would also be separately booked (a sensible precaution given that in those days passenger lists were often reported in the local newspapers)."

 

Although this is a very different tale from the one in the book, it's an amazing coincidence that the basic premise should be so similar - a wife who may or may not have died in the disaster.

 

By the way, if you decide to buy the book (which I thoroughly enjoyed), please use one of the Amazon links you'll find here - that way you'll be supporting LostCousins.

 

Note: one wife who mysteriously disappeared, though without the aid of an ocean liner, was Agatha Christie - who vanished for 11 days in December 1926. This story may have inspired the recent novel Gone Girl, which has now been turned into a film.

 

Don't rely on transcriptions

Although for the 1880/81 censuses we use transcriptions at LostCousins, I'm sure you don't rely on those transcriptions for your family tree - you take a look at what the enumerator actually wrote or, in 1911, what the head of household put down.

 

But because it was, until relatively recently, virtually impossible to find images of parish registers online many of us will have been in the habit of relying on transcriptions, whether from the IGI or other sources.

 

However, as we all know in our heart of hearts, transcriptions of parish registers are often incomplete, and sometimes wrong. But whilst many parish registers are now available online, thanks mainly to Ancestry and Findmypast, the vast majority aren't. That might not be a problem if you live close the relevant record office, but few of us have such convenient ancestries, and some are on the other side of the world. You could visit your nearest LDS Family History Centre, but that could also be a long way away.

 

Fortunately there is a solution: if you live more than 50 miles from your nearest Family History Centre FamilySearch will provide free digital copies of entries from the registers they have microfilmed - and their collection is far greater than you might think. See this newsletter article from March 2013.

 

Tip: in that 2013 article I mention that you can use Hugh Wallis's site to find out which registers are included in the IGI; however a better site is now available, provided by Steve Archer - you'll find it here.

 

3 days free OR 73 days free Ė you choose ENDS TODAY

Itís decision time - do you go for a free 3-day weekend at Findmypast, or a 20% discount on an Annual subscription, equivalent to 73 days free? You canít do both - if you wait for the free weekend the discount offer will be over.

 

Findmypastís Halloween offer, which ends at 11.59pm on Thursday 6th November offers new and lapsed subscribers a 20% discount on ANY Findmypast subscription at ANY Findmypast site. Simply click one of the links below to go to the special offer page at the appropriate site:

 

BRITAIN: Findmypast.co.uk

IRELAND: Findmypast.ie

USA: Findmypast.com

AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND: Findmypast.com.au

 

Tip: if the Findmypast links in this newsletter donít work, disable your adblocking software or use a different browser (I recommend Chrome).

 

Whilst this offer also applies to the 1 month subscription, you'll only save on your first month's subscription Ė and after that you'll pay full price. So my advice is to go for a 12 month subscription so that you lock in your savings for a full year!

 

Note: if after logging-in at Findmypast youíre taken to the home page simply click the link above a second time.

 

Peter's Tips

Researching your family tree is thought to be a good way of staving off the effects of dementia, but the way that Derek Hardwick is using family trees in a hospice is new to me - you can read all about it here.

 

If anyone who knows Derek is reading this, please tell him that there's a free LostCousins subscription waiting for him!

 

Finally, I'm glad to say that Genealogy in the Sunshine 2015 is almost sold out with 59 attendees and speakers already confirmed. If you are interested in one of the few remaining places please get in touch right away - you'll find information about the course here.

 

Stop Press

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.

 

Description: Description: peter_signature

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© Copyright 2014 Peter Calver

 

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