Newsletter - October 5, 2009




Find living relatives faster than ever before

More information about your matches

People who don't reply...

Ancestry add London records sets 1911 subscription

Street indexes for 1841/51 censuses now online

Ancestry supporters hit back!

Hip, hip, hooray!

LostCousins subscribers to get news quicker

India Office Records FREE online

Prisoners of War records online at Ancestry

Obtaining 20th century Army records

Ordering the right certificate

Send three and fourpence...

Is your tree online?

Peter's Tips

Have you tried...?

Stop Press


To visit the main LostCousins site please go to or click here if you need a password reminder. It's free to join LostCousins, so if you've been sent this newsletter (or a link to this newsletter) by someone else, I hope you'll register in your own right - and take part in the great LostCousins project.


If you missed the previous LostCousins newsletter (dated 14/9/09), or would like to see it again, click here. All newsletters since February 2009 are still available online.




It's now quicker than ever before to search for new cousins! When you click  on your My Ancestors page you'll get an amazingly fast response - even if you have hundreds of relatives listed. For example, I now get a response in just 5 seconds, despite having nearly 800 entries - and most members will get the answer almost immediately!


This is unbelievably quick considering that every entry on your My Ancestors page is checked against all the entries made by ever other LostCousins member - it's like getting 'Hot Matches' on demand! And remember that the LostCousins matching process is so accurate that you will probably NEVER be matched with the wrong person, even if you live to 100.



From now on, when you go to your My Cousins page you'll now see the initials of every member you have been matched with where contact hasn't yet been established. This enables you to identify people who you're already in touch with, and focus on brand new contacts - yet it still protects your privacy and that of other LostCousins members. Only when you've both agreed to make contact with each other will your full names will be shown.


Tip: if the person you've been matched with has the same initials as you, it could be a coincidence - but it's more likely that you've inadvertently opened 2 accounts! If you think this may have happened, please drop me a line.


Another recent change is that the cousins and other relatives on your My Cousins page are now listed in reverse chronological order, so that the newest matches are at the top of the list. Very new matches are marked


Tip: if you see  against one of the contacts listed on your My Cousins page, please click it



On Thursday last week I tried to contact three new relatives. One I found on LostCousins, and she responded the next day. The other two I found using Genes Reunited - but so far I haven't heard a dicky bird from either of them (as one of my Cockney ancestors might have said). Now Genes Reunited don't pretend this problem doesn't exist - according to their Help page they "realise how frustrating it is if you don't receive a reply" - they just aren't prepared to do anything about it, even though I have a Gold subscription.


It's very different if you're a LostCousins subscriber. I'll do everything I can to get a response from your relative including sending them a personal email, telephoning, or writing them a letter (even if they live on the other side of the world). Perhaps one day every site will provide a similar level of service, but until they do I suggest you make the most of what LostCousins offers!


London Metropolitan Archives



It was a long wait, but ultimately worth it. Many of the parish registers held at the London Metropolitan Archives went online just after my last newsletter went to press, and whilst most records prior to 1813 have yet to be transcribed and indexed there are millions of later records that have been.


Despite my misgivings about the way Ancestry is developing I have several 'brick walls' in London so I couldn't resist taking out a subscription, and in less than a week I was able to identify scores of new relatives and add 35 who were recorded in the 1881 census to my My Ancestors page - as a result of which I am now in touch with yet another 'lost cousin' (a lovely surprise for my birthday!). Sadly my 'brick walls' are still standing, though I do have a useful clue that may eventually bring one of them crashing down.


Early indications are that the transcribers have done a pretty good job, however the implementation is somewhat flawed - and once again I have to wonder about Ancestry's quality control. The biggest problem I noticed was with marriages: where a bride or groom was described as of 'full age' in the register Ancestry have recorded their age as 0 - which means that the estimated year of birth is wrong. This fault affects as many as 80% of records from the 1840s and 1850s, though it is much less of a problem with later records - for example, less than 1% of records in 1889 appear to be affected.


I'd recommend that you omit the estimated birth year when searching earlier records, or else search a second time with the range for the birth year the same as that for the marriage year. Remember too that until July 1837 - when civil registration came in - the ages of the bride and groom usually weren't shown in the register.


A final warning - parish registers are not included in Ancestry's Essentials membership (£83.40 a year, or £10.95 a month); you'll need a Premium membership (£107.40 a year or £12.95 a month) or Worldwide membership (£155.40 a year or £18.95 a month).




The rumours that would charge separately for the 1911 Census turned out to be true, and I think some people were initially taken aback by the cost of £59.99 for £39.99 for 6 months. I certainly was - until I remembered that I spent over £150 on the 1901 Census when that came out.


The good news is that for a limited period there will be a discount of just over 20% for anyone who takes out a combined subscription, bringing the cost down to £119.95 for a year's UNLIMITED access to EVERY record at the site, including all 8 England & Wales censuses from 1841-1911 (1851 is not yet complete, but will be soon). Existing subscribers will be the first to get access to the census - the date for everyone else is likely to be October 21st.



If you used the Family Records Centre prior to its closure, you may recall the very useful street indexes for the England & Wales censuses that made it easier to find the part of the census which covered the streets where your relatives were likely to be living. Although they didn't cover the entire country, towns and cities with more than 40,000 inhabitants were included.


I'm delighted to say that the 1841 and 1851 indexes are now online thanks to the National Archives Historical Streets Project - I hope you find them useful. Let's hope that the remaining indexes become available soon.


Tip: you can search all England & Wales censuses by address at



It's good to know that despite the shortcomings reported by some Ancestry users, and summarised in my articles in the last two newsletters, there are others who think the site is wonderful. Several members have written in recently to point out how extensive a range of databases Ancestry has, and on this point I have to agree with them.


Nevertheless, anyone choosing between different sites can ascertain which records are included before they decide to subscribe - what isn't so obvious is when something doesn't work properly. In my first article I wrote about the problems which affect over 1 million records in the 1881 England & Wales census, and I'm prepared to bet that 9 out of 10 Ancestry users weren't aware of them before that article appeared.


I get emails every day from members who tell me they can't find their relatives in the 1881 England & Wales Census (it's the main census we use at LostCousins), and so I think it's important that readers of this newsletter are aware of the flaws that can prevent them finding people in that census - especially when it can be searched free at either FamilySearch or, neither of which has the same flaws.


My second article wasn't planned - it was prompted by the large number of members who wrote to tell me of other problems, many of them relating to the recently launched birth and marriage indexes for the period from 1916 onwards. If it sounded like a bit of a rant that's because as I researched the problems reported to me by members I discovered others, some of which were even more serious - and so I couldn't help wondering whether Ancestry had been rushing out new databases in an attempt to boost their profits before they head for the stockmarket.


I do think it is appalling that in my tests of the marriage indexes between 5% and 30% of entries from the 1920s and 30s were missing or wrongly transcribed. Of course one has to expect a small number of transcription errors when handwritten records are transcribed - but in this case the source data was almost all typed or printed!


I haven't had a chance to check the birth indexes, but since one member wrote to say that the births of all three of her sons were missing, I'm concerned that they may be equally flawed.



It's not often I get an email which ends up "three cheers for Lost Cousins, the best site on the internet" so I was delighted when Runelle wrote to me from Australia to tell me of her success in looking up her husband's uncle in The Stage archive (see last issue for the discount codes).


He was a vaudeville magician, not only in Australia, Sth. Africa, N.Z & England under the stage name of Donald. B. Stuart. From the Stage paper I have managed to follow his wonderful career from 1922, his first performance in Penge, till a Royal Command Performance in 1954 - just a quote from the paper:


"Donald B. Stuart comes towering on, hanging up his hat immeasurably out of the reach of his audience helpers. His conjuring deliberate mistakes are embellished by a constant witty flow. When he does succeed he delights the audience by taking them into his confidence & showing them how it is done. Or does he?"


It's not everyone who has relatives who were in the theatre, but what a wonderful resource this is for those who do! Another site that might be worth checking is the Leeds playbills site, which has a large number of posters for theatres and circuses - including Pablo Fanque's Circus, which was immortalised in "Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite" on The Beatles Sergeant Pepper album ("the Hendersons will all be there, late of Pablo Fanque's fair").



Starting with the next issue subscribers will get earlier access to the LostCousins newsletters, in recognition of the important role played by them in funding the maintenance and development of the website. Subscribers will also occasional one-off mailings notifying them of major genealogy news and events, or other high-priority information.


To encourage more members to become subscribers and support the LostCousins project we're offering a special 5 month subscription for £5 - but only until November 5th. Simply log-in as usual, click on Subscribe in the menu that runs down the left hand side of the screen, then enter the code ONLYAFIVER in the Special Offers box. Remember that unlike some sites we don't keep your credit card details nor do we renew your subscription automatically (indeed, you can pay by cheque if you prefer - but UK cheques only, please).



Many British families have Indian connections - India was the 'jewel in the Crown' of the British empire. I've known for some time that the India Office records are held by the British Library, but what I didn't discover until recently is that you can search 300,000 births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials online - and best of all, it's free!


ww1 army records 728x90



Ancestry have recently added a small but significant database with details of over 100,000 British Army personnel who were held in Prisoner of War camps in Europe during WW2.


However, there is a slight catch - whilst the Search form invites you to enter the first name and last name of the person you're seeking, the database doesn't include any first names, only initials. So whatever name you type in you won't get ANY results at all unless you turn off exact matches. It's ironic that as you're completing the new-style Search box a message pops up advising you to enter the full name in order to get better results!


It's a shame to see such a newsworthy addition to Ancestry's data spoiled by such a trivial flaw. My advice is to leave exact matches turned on, but enter just the initial.



World War 1 and earlier British Army records are held by the National Archives, but those for the 1920s onwards are still held by the Ministry of Defence. If you wish to send off for your own records you can take advantage of the Data Protection Act, and there is also no charge to widows (or widowers) of service personnel requesting their spouse's records. For all other relatives there is a flat fee of £30 - and you'll also need permission from the person's next of kin.


You can download an information pack here (it is in PDF format).



Last month I warned about the dangers of going through an intermediary to obtain England & Wales BMD certificates, and recommended going straight to the GRO. However, I did also mention that certificates from the local register office are more likely to be accurate, because information had to be copied before it could be sent to the GRO.


Of course, as some members have pointed out, it's usually easier and often cheaper to order a certificate from the GRO, and so that's what most people do most of the time - me included. But because the data in the indexes is limited it's easy to order the wrong certificate, and I've now got a collection of certificates for people who, so far as I know, don't belong to my family tree!


The good news is that in several parts of the country there are projects to index the local registers, and this can make it easier for you to find the correct entry - because these indexes often include data not shown in the GRO indexes. For example, the Isle of Wight Family History Society has transcribed all the local BMD registers from 1837-2002, and included the mother's maiden name for every birth (the GRO indexes only have this additional information from 1912). Other projects include Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire - but you need to bear in mind that most of these projects are ongoing, so there's no guarantee that the entry you're seeking has already been indexed.


The UKBMD site provides a gateway to most of the local projects, and allows you to perform a global search - though you'll get better results if you search each index separately. In some cases the additional information you obtain may enable you to avoid buying a certificate, but if you do decide to go ahead you should find the process a little easier than it would have been otherwise.


A final word of warning - some local register offices (including York) charge more when you pay by debit or credit card. If you are quoted a price higher than £7 then I recommend you ask if there is a cheaper alternative.



Back in the 1960s I heard the tale of the message passed back from the front-line during the Great War, which began as "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance" and ended up as "Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance" - a potentially fatal error.


Family legends can also be dangerous for the unsuspecting researcher - as most of us are, if truth be told. There's usually a grain of truth in all of them, but finding it is invariably a challenge. Take, for example, the story that Frank emailed to me last month...


"I was talking to a friend recently who told me a family story about her great grandfather. According to family folklore the guy was found guilty of murder and duly hanged. He was living in Huddersfield at the time of his misdemeanour. She is not sure of the exact year of the crime but believes it took place sometime between 1872 and 1885."


Frank knew that family stories are often embellished and having discovered that this person was not listed at the Capital Punishment website wondered if the sentence had been commuted - or whether the whole story was a myth. Thanks to a suggestion from a helpful librarian he eventually found his way to the Times online archive where he discovered that there had indeed been a murder trial, but the 17 year-old lad and his alleged accomplice had been found not guilty by the jury after less than half an hour's deliberation. Even the location was wrong - the ancestor had been living in Manchester, which was also where the death occurred - Huddersfield was just a 'red herring'.


Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see". Maybe he did, and maybe he didn't - but either way it's a maxim worth bearing in mind as we evaluate the evidence in front of us. In my experience it's generally better to assume that the information you have is wrong, and be pleasantly surprised when it turns out to be correct, than to spends years chasing up a blind alley.



I don't have my tree online - I'm a little worried what might happen to my data. But I know that many LostCousins members have entered their data on an online tree, and that some of them don't have an offline copy - which is a very risky strategy.


The other day one of them asked me whether it was possible to download a family tree that she had created on Ancestry, so that she could upload it to another site - and to tell you the truth, I didn't know the answer. But being curious I decided to work my way through Ancestry's Help information until I found the answer.


If you don't have a copy of the data that Ancestry hold for you, it's very simple to put that right. Just go to Ancestry Help and search for 'Gedcom' - you'll find the instructions under "Downloading a GEDCOM to create a family tree on Ancestry" (yes, I know that this is the opposite of what you're trying to do - they've got the heading wrong!).



In the past few weeks I've had several emails from LostCousins members warning me about a deadly virus that's going round (a computer virus that is - I'm not talking about swine flu).


One thing they all have in common is that the email first scares you (eg "it has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever"), then asks you to forward the email to everyone you know. In my view any email that asks you to do this is itself a virus, albeit a fairly harmless one (hopefully). Usually these emails do refer to a genuine virus, but invariably it's one that has been around for ages. My advice is to ignore them - and certainly NEVER pass them on, because one day there will be an email like this that isn't so benign.


A while ago I wrote about the Care Quality Commission site which has independent reports on care homes in England. I've now discovered that the NHS Choices site has a similar facility to help you choose hospitals and GPs (also in England). You can even provide your own feedback on individual hospitals or wards, whether you've been a patient or visiting someone else, and this can only have a beneficial effect on the quality of care. You may also want to read this story from Saga magazine about how elderly people are sometimes denied treatment and allowed to die as a result of a misunderstanding.


For several years I've been using the free Firefox browser, which is invariably a couple of steps ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Having two browsers on your computer gives you a lot more flexibility - for example, you could be logged-in to two LostCousins accounts simultaneously (one in each browser), which is very handy if husband and wife share the same computer. There are likely to be similar advantages if you have two accounts at other websites. Something else I like about Firefox is the ability to delete individual cookies - which can be very handy (with Internet Explorer you normally end up deleting the lot, which is really inconvenient).


By the way, did you know that it isn't necessary to keep logging-in and logging-out whenever you visit the LostCousins site? So long as you're the only person who uses your computer you can stay logged-in permanently - just change the setting on your My Details page:




Hugh Wallis's IGI site is a wonderful aid to anyone searching for British baptisms and marriages in the International Genealogical Index at FamilySearch - but it's also an essential tool if you're planning to visit a country record office. Why? Because you don't want to waste your time peering at page after page of handwritten entries on microfilm if they have already been indexed - much better to spend your valuable time at the record office searching registers that aren't in the IGI (or confirming entries you've already found there).


For more details see my article Unlock the Secrets of the IGI on the Help & Advice page. You'll find Hugh Wallis's site listed on your My Links page.



This is where updates or amendments will appear.


That's all for now - I hope you've found some of it relevant to you and your family tree. Please do keep sending in your comments and suggestions for future issues.

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


Copyright 2009 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated


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