Newsletter - 8 October 2011


Another cemetery scandal offer free searches

Irish Genealogy adds more free records

First Scottish censuses at findmypast

The importance of collateral lines

Tracing collateral lines

Volunteers sought by the National Archives

Do you have German ancestors?

Pauper Lives in Georgian London

Free lectures on London history

Berkshire parish records online

Life expectancy in earlier centuries

Australian Navy Lists

Historical connections

Looking for help?

A cautionary tale

Talk about coincidences!

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 24 September 2011) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; there will shortly be an online index to articles thanks to the sterling efforts of members Elizabeth and, especially, Gill.


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 - if you are still using Internet Explorer you may need to enable pop-ups (if a link seems not to work, look for a warning message at the top of your browser window).


To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter.


Another cemetery scandal

I couldn't believe it when Nick pointed out an article on a local Greenwich website - a cemetery that had been 'trashed', not by vandals but by people who were supposed to be helping!



Journalist Rob Powell reported that local historian, Horatio Blood, was left appalled by the scene of broken headstones:


"The smashing to smithereens of these historic tombstones is wanton destruction and a terrible tragedy. All that remains are a few sorry stumps, like broken teeth, and the ghost impressions left behind on the brick wall. The Friends of St Alfege Park appear to have succeeded where the rioters failed."


You'll find the full article and more pictures here - it is appalling that something like this could have happened in a supposedly civilised country. The Chairman of the Friends has now apologised, but it's too little too late so far as I'm concerned, and judging by the comments of others on the website he's not going to be allowed to forget what he has done.


14 Day Free Trial offer free searches

During the first half of October you can search 15 Ancestry datasets completely free, starting from the dates shown below and continuing until midnight (London time) on 15th October. Even if you have an Ancestry subscription many of them are normally only available to Worldwide subscribers, so most members can benefit from Ancestry's generosity.


Just click on a link below to go straight to the relevant database:


October 1st - US Social Security Death Index

October 2nd - Ireland, Griffithís Valuation, 1848-1864

October 3rd - California Marriage Index, 1960-1985

October 4th - Bavaria, Germany, WWI Personnel Rosters, 1914-1918

October 5th - 1920 US Federal Census

October 6th - Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1954

October 7th - Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997

October 8th - Sweden, Births from the Swedish Death Index, 1947-2006

October 9th - US WW I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

October 10th - England & Wales, Birth Index, 1916-2005

October 11th - Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage & Death Announcements, 1851-2003

October 12th - Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967

October 13th - 1930 US Federal Census

October 14th - 1901 England Census

October 15th - US Obituary Collection


Please remember that the records aren't available until the date shown above, but can then be accessed free until 15th October.


Irish Genealogy adds more free records

The addition of Roman Catholic baptism, marriage and burial records for County Cork and Dublin City brings the total number of records at the free Irish Genealogy site to almost 3 million.


Tip: you can enter relatives from the 1911 Ireland census on your My Ancestors page



First Scottish censuses at findmypast

Good news for those with Scottish ancestry - findmypast have at last begun to add transcriptions of the Scotland censuses to their site, starting with 1841 and 1851. As expected the General Register Office for Scotland hasn't allowed the use of the census images, so the quality of the transcriptions is absolutely crucial - and so far they look very good (although as I've been writing this newsletter since they arrived on the site 3 days ago my opportunities for testing have necessarily been limited). Findmypast claim accuracy of "well over 98%" and I've got no reason to doubt that figure.


Findmypast haven't given a date when the 1861-1901 censuses will go online, but I think we'll see them in the next few weeks - and this will make it far easier for LostCousins members to trace not only their Scottish ancestors, but also their collateral lines.


Tip: whilst it's important to enter your direct ancestors and their households on your My Ancestors page, in practice it's the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own in 1881 who are most likely to lead to your 'lost cousins'. Why? Because most of your living relatives are descended through those collateral lines.


The importance of collateral lines

What are collateral lines, and why are they important? Whilst the primary goal for most of us is to trace our ancestry, ie our direct line of descent, to ignore other relatives risks missing out on vital clues and sources of information. Since the average age of LostCousins members is just over 60, many of us don't have any direct ancestors who are still alive - which means that the only people we can ask are collateral relatives: brothers, sisters, cousins, perhaps uncles or aunts.


Think back to when you started to research your family tree - you probably started the same way I did, by asking your living relatives what they knew. Eventually we run out of people to ask - and that's when we realise that there must be thousands of other relatives who share our ancestry, thousands of 'lost cousins' who we haven't met and who (in most cases) we can't even name.


On the one hand, the more closely related our cousins are the more ancestors we'll share (usually we share half our ancestors with our 1st cousins, a quarter with our 2nd cousins, an eighth with our 3rd cousins, and so on). On the other hand, the more distant our cousins are, the more likely it is that they'll have information that we don't already have within our branch of the family. It doesn't matter to me how distant my 'lost cousins' are - they can ALL tell me things about my family tree that I don't already know - so it shouldn't matter to you either!


For example, one of my 'lost cousins' is a half 4th cousin - we have the same great-great-great grandfather (but are descended from different wives). You might think that because we only share 1/32nd of our ancestors we don't have much to talk about, but in fact we've exchanged over 1600 emails since we discovered each other's existence!


Our common ancestor died in 1835, so he doesn't appear on ANY of the censuses. You might think that it's impossible to find a cousin like that through LostCousins, a site that depends entirely on census information - but you'd be wrong. That's because the LostCousins matching system doesn't just look at direct ancestors when deciding which members are cousins, but also at blood relatives - otherwise known as collateral relatives.


The more blood relatives you enter on your My Ancestors page, especially from the 1881 Census, the more cousins you'll find - not just today or next week, but throughout your membership. Think of it this way - the LostCousins matching system looks for overlaps between the trees of different members, so the more branches, twigs, and leaves on your My Ancestors page, the greater the chance that your entries will match with those of your cousins.


Note: if you remain unconvinced about the value of collateral lines and 'lost cousins', see this article from the LDS genealogy blogs site.


Tracing collateral lines

Now that you realise how important your collateral lines are, how should you go about tracing them?


Censuses are the most useful resource, because usually you'll find whole families living together. I've traced some of my collateral lines starting from baptism records in the late 1700s and early 1800s, but it's far easier from 1841 onwards. Of course, it's a little harder to track down female relatives, because they generally adopt their husband's surname when they marry - but it's usually fairly straightforward to identify the right marriage unless the surname is a very common one.


How can you tell which is the right marriage? By finding the couple together on the next census, and verifying that the birthplace and age of the wife fits without what you know about your relative.


Whereas we work backwards through the censuses to track our direct ancestors, we work forwards through the censuses to track collateral lines. My aim is to find every relative in every census, and whilst that's not always possible, it's usually surprisingly easy (and I feel I'm getting really good value from the subscriptions I have!).


Of course, I find it most exciting when I discover some new relatives on the 1881 Census, because I know that when I enter them on my My Ancestors page I've got a sporting chance of finding a new living relative - which, after all, is what LostCousins is all about. Much as I enjoy writing these newsletters, nothing can compare with the thrill of hearing from a member that they've just found a new branch of their family on the other side of the world!


Volunteers sought by the National Archives

The National Archives are looking for volunteers who are prepared to give up a few hours of their time to help sort the WO 95 series of Great War diaries before they are digitised and published online. Training will be given, so you don't need to be familiar with these records, and they will pay your travelling expenses. Click here to find out more.


Do you have German ancestors?

Had you asked me that question 10 years ago I'd have told you not to be so silly; I imagine my mother and her father would have said the same. Yet my German-born great-great-great grandfather died only 14 years before my grandfather was born!


If you have discovered German ancestors in your tree the Anglo German Family History Society is a good place to learn more. One of the sites that the AGFHS link to is run by Brian Mawer, who specialises in sugar bakers, many of whom arrived in England during the Napoleonic Wars and settled in London's East End, but he also has many links to other interesting sites.


Quite by chance I came across an article on Brian Mawer's site that isnít in the site map, an article by Panikos Panayi entitled The Settlement of Germans in Britain during the Nineteenth Century which provides an excellent overview of migration in the 19th century (the introduction also discusses earlier migrants). If you want to save a copy on your computer - and this might be wise - I'd recommend the site I mentioned earlier this year that converts web pages to PDF files (and much more besides - all free of charge!).


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Pauper Lives in Georgian London

I often make unexpected discoveries when I'm researching articles for this newsletter. Another of these was Pauper Lives in Georgian London, a research project at Newcastle University, which includes some fascinating PowerPoint presentations and working papers. You'll also find potted biographies of two paupers, based primarily on workhouse register entries which record their numerous admissions and discharges - all in all it's a wonderful site which, though not apparently intended for public consumption, brilliantly supplements Peter Higginbotham's excellent workhouses site.


Tip: if you don't have PowerPoint you can download a free viewer from the Microsoft website.


Free lectures on London history

Gresham College, founded in 1597, offers a range of free lectures at different venues in London - some at lunchtime, some in the early evening. Most of them are about London, and all of them look interesting - so I'm not even going to attempt to pick any out. You'll find a schedule here, and there are also transcripts and recordings of past lectures on the website.


PS Thanks to my lovely wife for telling me about these lectures.


Berkshire parish records online

Findmypast have recently added nearly three-quarters of a million Berkshire parish records to their website; most are burials, but there are some marriages.


Life expectancy in earlier centuries

A recent article in Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society, highlights the difference between life expectancy at birth and the age to which adults could reasonably hope to live.


In 1911 life expectancy at birth in England was a mere 52 years for men, and 55 years for women - but the primary reason these figures are so low (by modern standards) was the high rate of infant mortality. As the article points out, a man who reached the age of 40 could expect to live to 68, whilst a woman of the same age might live to 70. Going back to 1841, the year of the first census, a man of 40 could expect to live to 67 and a woman of 40 to 68 - yet life expectancy at birth was only 40 years for boys and 42 years for girls.


These and many more figures can be found in a spreadsheet that you can download from the website of the Office of National Statistics, and which covers the period from 1841-2002 at roughly 10 year intervals. I should stress that these were projections prepared at the time and based on past experience, so it's likely that people actually lived even longer than predicted.


Australian Navy Lists

Jonathan wrote from Australia to let me know that Navy Lists from 1905-79 are available free online at the Navy's own website. Though they are all in PDF format, earlier editions seem not be searchable - certainly the 1905 edition isn't.


Tip: I mentioned over free Australian military records in my newsletter dated 27th August.


Historical connections

In the last newsletter I mentioned that a cousin of mine married Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, one of the key figuresin the search for Jack the Ripper in the late 1880s (although I didn't mention him by name). In the 1988 television film Abberline was played by none other than Michael Caine!


A few other members wrote in to tell me about their connections, and I was particularly interested to hear from John, whose cousin - also a police officer - gave evidence at the inquest for one of the Ripper's victims. Why was I so interested? Because John told me that Abberline and his wife (my cousin) had witnessed the will of his cousin - and they seem to have been friends as well as colleagues.


It reminded me how important such small pieces of evidence can be, yet how difficult they are to piece together - had I not written that article John and I might never have known how we are connected!


Looking for help?

The two most important pages at LostCousins are My Ancestors and My Cousins, and because of this they each have Help information that explains how the page is used (this means you don't have to go to the FAQs page, then come back again). So that these two key pages aren't cluttered with information that you might need only occasionally the Help information can be hidden, and on your My Ancestors page it is hidden by default after you've made your first entry.


To display the Help information for the My Ancestors page click How to use this page, which is near the top right of the page.


Most other information about the site is found on the FAQs page, where you'll find dozens of common questions organised into categories. However, there's also a page for new members (or for anyone who has joined such a long time ago that they've forgotten how LostCousins works) and you can get to this page by clicking Read this first in the website menu.


A cautionary tale

I've written on many occasions about the dangers of posting information online, and when Rosemary wrote to me recently about her experiences I asked if she would put together an article to warn other members:


"About a month ago, I began to put my tree online at Ancestry as a private tree, not indexed. It seemed to be the best way I could share it with my children and grandchildren, as they live far away. But in doing so, I got a shock when I followed up a Ďhintí - I found my motherís detailed information in the public tree of someone I didnít know, who lives in Australia. In that same tree were all my immediate ancestors, who donít appear anywhere online, as they were born in one country and died somewhere else.


"Then I realized that her name sounded a bit familiar. It was someone who had written to me on Genes Reunited more than a year previously, saying she thought we were related through a specific person quite far back in my Scottish ancestry. When I shared my tree so she could see if we were related, she had apparently downloaded my entire tree into hers. She had not written to me to tell me she had done so or even how she thought we might be related; in fact, I have only ever had that one message from her.


"After the initial shock, I wrote to her via the Ancestry message service and told her that my motherís information was not available anywhere else online and asked her politely to remove it. I didnít get a reply, but the next day she made her Ancestry tree private, instead of public - with my motherís information still included.


"I wrote to both Ancestry and Genes Reunited. Genes Reunited said they could only ask a person to remove living people from their tree; they wouldnít ask a person to remove people who were no longer living. So I searched to see if my name appeared in her Genes Reunited tree, and then discovered that someone else on Genes Reunited had also copied my tree, including my own details! She also had found my brother and sister, who are not in my GR tree, apparently as a result of the information in my tree. Like the lady in Australia, she had not bothered to tell me she had done so or to send a message saying how she thought we might be related. I sat, completely shocked, in front of my computer for quite some time. I was angry and upset, and I didnít know what to do.


"Eventually, I sent a polite message to both of them through the Genes Reunited message service. I explained that I had always enjoyed researching my tree and thus finding cousins, as I had grown up far away from relatives, as well as helping others when I could. I had allowed them to see my tree to help with their research, not to let them download it in its entirety, and in fact, this was a violation of my copyright. I said that as a result of this experience, I had removed access to my tree from everyone except those I knew to be cousins and would not share my tree again.


"I didnít get replies from either of them but Genes Reunited advised me, a day later, that the Australian lady had removed her tree entirely, which removed all the entries. When I checked again, the other woman also had removed me, my brother and sister and my mother and grandparents from her tree.


"Eventually, after some correspondence with two branches of Ancestry, I learned that Ancestry had a Ďtake downí policy (it is, in fact, outlined on their site). I prepared the detailed document they required, and sent it to the email address they provided, I didnít get any acknowledgement. Five days later, I wrote to ask them to confirm that they had received my original document; no reply. I sent another message, five days after that, asking them to confirm receipt. No reply. This time I also copied the message to the Ancestry customer support address; I didnít hear from them either. I have come to the conclusion, sadly, that although Ancestry says it has a Ďtake downí policy, either this office doesnít really exist or doesnít actually deal with complaints it receives.


"So this is a cautionary tale. Donít share your tree with anyone unless you know them to be a cousin or other relative. If you really do want to share, share only the relevant parts of your tree, not the whole tree (as sharing is Genes Reunitedís default, you will have to untick the box that says Ďshare my treeí when you reply to messages.) Donít give anyone information that you wouldnít want to see shared publicly - you canít control what they do with it once they have access to it.


"I have met many wonderful people through my research, including many cousins. I have been helped by strangers who went out of their way to aid my research, and in turn, I have tried to help others when I can. But there are some people out there who will take advantage of your generosity - and will have neither the courtesy to tell you what they have done, or to reply to your messages.


"It is rather as if you had invited them to tea, and they said thanks for the tea - and by the way, I really like your grandmotherís tea cups and I will take them with me. In real life, no one would behave that way - but in an online world, they can do the equivalent, and you will have no practical recourse."


Talk about coincidences!

In my last newsletter I mentioned the man whose daughter and grandson who were born in the same hospital on the same day - and pointed out that the chances of this happening were actually quite high (and not a million to one as had been quoted). This prompted Steve to write to me about a series of coincidences in his own tree:


Hi Peter, the paragraph in your latest newsletter regarding statistics prompts me to list the following people on my paternal side all born on 22nd March:


Myself, born 1947

My eldest son, born 1977

My paternal grandmother, born 1890


This indicates a generation - my father's - where the sequence was broken. But when I researched this line in detail by labouriously ploughing through BMD records for the period when my grandmother could feasibly have been of childbearing age, I found that my father had another brother [born 1924 at the family home, when my father was nine] who tragically died five weeks after birth which, incredibly, was on 22nd March. How sad must have been his mother's birthday each year.


What are the statistical odds of a birthday on the same date in four successive generations? The odd thing is, my father never referred to the death of this brother and my father's two surviving siblings have no knowledge of the child whatsoever.


Keep up the good work, best regards, Steve


I don't know what the odds are, but it's certainly an amazing coincidence! But coincidences don't just happen to other people - I discovered this week that I'm also a coincidence.


I was chatting to my latest 'lost cousin' for the very first time when I found out that she was born in the same hospital as I was - although that's not the coincidence that had me reeling. It was when I discovered that Jenny's only brother was born on the same day as me: same day, same year - amazing!


Peter's Tips

Last Saturday was not only the hottest English October day on record, it was also my birthday. So I was especially pleased when 2 days ago I received a little parcel containing the first entry for my jam-making competition - and it's a very interesting combination of fruits, one I've never tasted before.


Last week I made my third batch of Wild Plum jam (delicious, though I say it myself), and this weekend I'll be making my first batch of Tomato jam. I won't be entering the competition, of course, but you can - though you've only got until the end of October to submit your entry, either for the Open category or the Tomato category. All entrants will get a prize, so you really can't go wrong (unless you send marmalade, which I don't like), and the category winners will each get a jar of my special Wild Plum jam. See my July newsletter for more details, and get jam-making - it's a great way to take your mind off the recession!


Talking of recessions, something I realised recently is that if we all keep cutting back our expenditure we'll never get out of the recession. This realisation came about when I saw some official statistics which demonstrated that people are saving more money now than when the economy was booming! Spending less, I can understand - because incomes are lower, certainly in real terms - but saving more?


Now I don't know about you, but I was taught to save money when I could afford to so that I'd have a little extra to spend when times were hard - doing it the other way round is surely the road to ruin? I'm not saying you should spend money you don't have, only that now probably isn't the right time to be increasing your savings (especially since interest rates are so low). Does that make sense?


If you agree with me, then as far as possible buy things that are made in your own country, rather than imported, because that way your money will do more good; even better, spend it on goods and services that are produced locally so that you help the people around you. Best of all, use any spare cash to improve the value of your assets or save you money in the long-run (I'm focusing on the jobs around the house that I've been putting off for years).


That's the end of the economics class: now for some money-saving offers.... Tesco may be ending their Double Points promotion very soon, but they've come up with lots of other attractive offers. For example, if you order online groceries for the first time before 31st October you can get £15 off an order of £50 or more with the code XX3PKK (and if you click the Tesco advert in this newsletter on your way to the Tesco website, LostCousins will receive a small commission too!).


UPDATE: when I placed an order today (12th October) I was given 1000 extra points instead of a £15 discount. Since 1000 points are worth up to £30 in rewards I was delighted!



Amazon have further increased the price of Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum, so it now makes more sense to buy the 2012 edition. Both come with a free 6 month Premium subscription to, and even if - like me - you don't use the software (I prefer Genopro because of the control it gives over the look of my tree), you're still saving money compared to a normal subscription.


Stop Press

There's a new family history series starting on the Yesterday channel on Thursday 20th October. Called "Find My Past", it is sponsored by BrightSolid, the company behind two of Britain's leading genealogy sites - findmypast and Genes Reunited.


I hope you've found my newsletter interesting, and that you'll keep writing in with tips of your own - many of the best articles in my newsletters are inspired by members.




Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins