Newsletter - 11 October 2013



GRO planned to destroy 1861 Census

Birmingham parish registers: clarification

What exactly is happening to Ancestry's prices?

Free 1911 Census ends on Monday

Suffragettes and the census: follow-up

Living Ohio man is legally dead

Canada immigration records at FamilySearch

Calendar conundrum: the solution

Don't expect instant results from DNA tests

New location for GRO Ireland research centre

Transcription errors

Disappearing email addresses

Amateur films online

Review: The Marriage Certificate

Genealogy in the Sunshine: update

Could a power failure cut down your family tree?

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 24 September 2013) 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.

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).For your convenience, when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open (so that you don’t lose your place in the newsletter) - if nothing seems to happen then you need to enable pop-ups in your browser or change the settings In your security software.


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!


GRO planned to destroy 1861 Census

The more I read from Michael Sharpe's magnificent history of British genealogy, Family Matters, the less respect I have for the General Register Office as an institution - hard to believe, I know! I shall quote a few lines from the book:


"The Registrar General was never sympathetic to the needs or interests of family historians and indeed the 1861 returns came close to being completely destroyed. Needing to make room for the new 1961 census and concerned about the confidential nature of the information, the Registrar had planned to have the whole census burnt once the 100-year closure period expired."


Fortunately Christopher Chataway, then a very new MP (and better-known as one of the pacemakers who helped Roger Bannister break the 4 minute mile), managed to get the decision reviewed and eventually reversed.



Can we at last persuade the GRO to start working for us, instead of against us? As you can see, I am currently waiting to hear from my local MP regarding the somewhat shabby response from the GRO to the letter I sent to the Home Secretary earlier this year.


Birmingham parish registers: clarification

Although Ancestry have indeed made available online many of the parish registers held by Birmingham Archives, as I reported last month, it certainly isn't a complete collection. Some of the registers for the Birmingham area have never been microfilmed, so digitizing them is a much bigger and more expensive task, one which Ancestry seem to have put on the back-burner for now. It's also not clear whether all of the registers that have been microfilmed are online - my informant suggests not.


Baptisms 1813-1912

Marriages and Banns 1754-1937

Burials 1813-1964

Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials 1538-1812


There's a dropdown menu of parishes under the heading Browse this collection to the right of the Search page, and when you choose a parish the years of coverage will be displayed.


What exactly is happening to Ancestry's prices?

In the last issue I revealed the shock subscription price increases at, and contrary to expectations they're still quoting these prices to new subscribers.


On the bright side, a number of existing subscribers have spoken to Ancestry, who assured them that their renewal price would not change - though whether that applies only to the next renewal isn't clear.


The new prices for 12 month Essential, Premium, and Worldwide subscriptions are £99, £149, and £199 respectively, between 24% and 35% more expensive than the equivalents at (and the disparity is even greater when you take into account the Loyalty Discount that findmypast offer to renewing subscribers).


However, it should be remembered that the two sites have very different data collections, so you shouldn't make your choice simply on price.


Free 1911 Census ends on Monday

There are just a few more days to search the 1911 England & Wales Census free at (click here for more details). Remember that the two census references you'll need to enter relatives from this census on your My Ancestors page are the Piece number, which forms part of Ancestry's transcription, and the Schedule number, which is usually shown in the top right corner of the form.


Whereas findmypast give a full set of census references in their transcriptions Ancestry don't, which is why you need to take the schedule number from the form. However the forms for larger institutions and military bases aren't numbered, and whilst the schedule number to use is either 1 or 9999 there's no way of telling which to use without the help of another site.


Fortunately you can use a free census reference search at findmypast to verify the references. It's possible that if the schedule number you enter is 1 or 9999 there will be too many results to display, but if that's the case then you know you've got the right schedule number, even though you can't see your ancestor's name.


Suffragettes and the census: follow-up

Following my article in the last issue Chris wrote from Australia to tell me about three great-aunts from Edinburgh who managed to avoid being enumerated in the 1911 Census by attending an all-night fancy dress 'Boycott Party'.


On page 428 (page 12 of 20) of the 31st March 1911 edition of the suffragette newspaper Votes for Women you can read of the plans that were made for similar events in London and other locations - but I found the following page even more interesting, because it highlights the role that men played in the campaign.


The ever-helpful Amy from findmypast wrote to tell me about an interesting census form that she'd spotted - Miss Rose Oldfield of Malvern completed her return but described herself in the Infirmity column as 'unenfranchised'. She also affixed two embossed 'Votes for Women' to the form (piece 15776, schedule 14).


Talking of infirmities, Alan pointed out a census form (piece 30262, schedule 108) on which the head of household, shown as Robert Ridley Newsworthy, had a very serious infirmity - he was dead! From Nesworthy to Newsworthy, you might say.....


Living Ohio man is legally dead

I discovered from a BBC News article published today that in the USA there's someone with the opposite problem to Mr Nesworthy. Donald Miller of Ohio was declared dead in 1994, but resurfaced in 2005 when he applied for a driving licence - but a judge has ruled that because more than 3 years has elapsed since he was declared dead, he cannot now be legally recognised as living.


But every shroud has a silver-lining - the ruling means that Mr Miller's "widow" won't have to repay the Social Security death benefits that she used to support their children after his disappearance.


At least William Cantelo, the English inventor who went missing in the mid-1880s and - like Mr Miller - seems to have left behind a trail of debts as well as a wife and children, had the good sense not to return. (If you missed that story see the articles I wrote in August.)


Canada immigration records at FamilySearch

FamilySearch have recently added passenger lists for Canadian arrivals between 1881-1922, and I was able to find two of my 1st cousins twice removed who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in March 1907 en route to Toronto.


One of them had married in England that same month, but his wife didn't accompany him on the voyage - indeed I couldn't find her arrival at all at first, but eventually I discovered that she was shown merely as Mrs Calver when she docked on 29th February 1908. They must have been very glad to be together again after such a long break - their first child was born on 11th December.


Tip: the precise arrival date isn't shown in the transcription, and there is no date shown on the passenger lists themselves. However there is a certificate which shows the details of the ship itself, including the departure and arrival information, and you'll usually find this with the first page of the list. Be careful, though, because sometimes the certificate shown is for a different ship - I had to look at all the other arrivals for February 1908 before I found the correct certificate. have a collection of Canadian passenger lists from 1865-1935, but you'll need a World subscription to look at them.


Calendar conundrum: the solution

There were nearly 80 entries for the competition in which members were invited to tell me how many days there were in the following months:


(a) February 1900

(b) February 1800

(c) February 1700

(d) February 1699

(e) September 1752


Note: I specifically stated that the question related to England - and yes, it does matter.


Almost everyone came up with the right answers to (a), (b), and (e) but hardly anyone got (c) and (d) completely correct. If you are one of the 99% of readers who didn't enter, this is your last opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the calendar - don't read the answer below until you've had a go yourself.


Solving problems of this type requires careful research. Some entrants clearly resorted to online perpetual calendars to produce the answers - not good enough! Others relied on Wikipedia - again, not quite good enough.


Let's start with the last question. Now, I would hope that everyone reading this newsletter knows that in the mid-18th century England (and its colonies) changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. By 1752 the calendars were 11 days out of step, and so to bring them into line Parliament passed legislation which stated that Wednesday 2nd September would be followed not by Thursday 3rd September, but by Thursday 14th September - so September 1752 had just 19 days.


Under the Gregorian calendar February usually has 29 days when the year is divisible by 4. However, if the year is divisible by 100 it gets more complicated - February only has 28 days unless the year is divisible by 400. So 2000 was a Leap Year, but 1900 and 1800 weren't - and so there was no extra day in February.


What about 1700? It isn't divisible by 400, so in the Gregorian calendar it wasn't a Leap Year - but under the Julian calendar it was. Indeed, it was because the Julian calendar had 3 extra Leap Years every 4 centuries that it got so out of step with the motion of the earth around the sun. The Julian calendar inherently assumed that it takes the earth exactly 365¼ days to go around the sun, but actually it's slightly less. 


So, whereas both February 1700 and February 1699 would have had only 28 days in countries that had already switched to the Gregorian calendar, there would have been an extra Leap Year in England and other countries that were still using the Julian calendar. But which year would have had an extra day?


Clearly 1700 is divisible by 4, whereas 1699 isn't. So on the face of it, February 1700 would have had 29 days and February 1699 only 28 in those countries that were still using the Julian calendar.


But not England - because in England at that time the year didn't begin on 1st January, as it does now, but on 25th March (Lady Day). So the month that other countries called February 1700 was legally February 1699 in England. Again, that's something that every family historian knows, but the vast majority of entrants failed to take it into account in their answers.


Family historians generally write dates prior to 1752 which fell in the first part of the year in an unambiguous format, ie 14th February 1699/1700, or 1st January 1732/33 (the risk of confusion isn't new, even at the time some people wrote dates in this way). Although parish registers - being legal documents - reflect the 25th March start of the year, this isn't always true of transcriptions, even some transcriptions made in the 18th century.


Tip: always go back to source documents when you can - more and more images of parish registers are now available online.


Not everyone considered 25th March to be the first day of the new year - when Samuel Pepys began writing his famous diaries on 1st January 1659/60 he referred to "last year". Also, if you look at newspapers from the first half of the 18th century in the British Newspaper Archive (also accessible through findmypast) you'll see that most regarded 1st January as the start of the new year. A notable exception was The London Gazette - as you can see from the front page of issue 9042, published on 23rd March 1750/51, and which reports the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales.


There were only a handful of all-correct entries, but that didn't mean it was easy to choose a winner. In the end I decided that David from Folkestone had submitted the best entry, and he will receive a 2014 Francis Frith calendar with 12 photos of his choice from the enormous Frith collection of 19th and 20th century photographs.


I'm going to end with two more calendar questions for you - no prizes this time, but it's a chance for you to amaze me with your knowledge:


(1) Which was the shortest year of the 18th century, and why?

(2) Why does the tax year begin on 6th April?


Once again, these questions relate to England.


Don't expect instant results from DNA tests

According to the saying "it takes two to tango", and it's the same for DNA testing - your DNA needs to match with someone else's for you to be able to draw meaningful conclusions. Sometimes you'll want to verify your connection with a supposed cousin, and you'll both provide samples - but often DNA tests are speculative, and we take them in the hope of a match with a distant cousin that will provide some clues to one of the 'brick walls' in our family tree.


Whilst DNA testing has been around for years, it has only become affordable recently. For example, the Family Finder test that's now available for just $99 from Family Tree DNA would have cost three times as much a year ago, and had it been available 10 years ago it would have cost over $1 million!


On the Family Tree DNA home page there's a link to "more statistics" which will give you an idea of how many people have contributed results of different types to their database - but whilst more family historians have used Family Tree DNA than any other provider, half a million is still a fairly small number compared to the population of the UK, let alone the population of Europe, the USA, or the world.


The fact that you don't get an immediate match with someone who can help you knock down a 'brick wall' shouldn't surprise you, nor should it be regarded as a failure - every time a new DNA test (of the same type) is carried out there's a chance that the person taking the test will match with you.


If person A and person B are destined to be linked by their DNA results one of them has to test first, and whilst it's the one who tests second who gets an instant result, there would be no result at all if the first person hadn't taken the plunge.


Tip: it's the same when you enter relatives on your My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site - you'll probably get a few matches immediately (assuming you enter a sufficiently representative sample) but over time you'll get many more as new members join, existing members make more entries, and you yourself add more data.


New location for GRO Ireland research centre

The General Register Office in Ireland has relocated its Dublin research facility from Lower Abbey Street to Werburgh Street, Dublin 2 (just behind Dublin Castle). For a fee of 20€ you can spend all day researching the indexes to the registers, then purchase photocopies of selected entries for 4€ each (not 2€ as stated in the FAQs at the GRO Ireland website).


Note: if you are ordering certificates by post you should continue to use the Roscommon address.


Transcription errors

I get quite a lot of emails from members complaining about transcription errors, but my sympathies are generally with the transcribers, who in my opinion do a great job in very difficult circumstances. For example, when I was searching the Canadian passenger lists at FamilySearch I wanted to make a note of the exact date when my distant cousins left Liverpool and arrived in Halifax.


Here's a snippet from the document (courtesy of FamilySearch) - I suggest you write down the departure and arrival dates and note how long it took you to come to those decisions.



Although the departure date was hard to read the arrival date was clearly 7th March. Since it takes about a week to cross the Atlantic I could then deduce that the departure date was 1st March. Problem solved!


Or was it? Before the GRO put up the prices of certificates in April 2010 I had ordered my cousin's marriage certificate - so I knew that he married at Eton Register Office on 4th March 1907. Clearly he couldn't simultaneously have been in the middle of the Atlantic - so I was forced to take another look.


This time I realised that the arrival date could possibly be 17th March, and not 7th as I had originally - and quite reasonably, in my opinion - assumed. If the arrival date was 17th March then the departure date could be 9th March, or even perhaps 7th. I next looked for another similar voyage by the same ship - and found one in April of the same year, when the SS Ionian had left Liverpool on 18th April, arriving in Halifax on 28th April. If it took 10 days in April then it probably took 10 days in March - so I finally decided that my cousin had departed Liverpool on 7th March, just 3 days after his marriage in Eton (more than 200 miles away). Not much time for a honeymoon!


The point I'm making is that I was only able to interpret the dates correctly because I had additional information and was prepared to spend half an hour figuring it all out. A transcriber has just a few seconds to make a decision - no wonder they don't always get it right.


Whilst I expect transcribers to make errors and routinely allow for this in my searches, I do get annoyed when I discover systematic errors that pollute the data. These are not usually the fault of transcribers, but of the people managing the project - one of the worst examples was when Ancestry indexed a cemetery receipt book as if it was a burial register. A more recent example was sent in by Gerald who noticed that some of the pre-1813 entries in the London Metropolitan Archives collection were incorrectly described - for example, a marriage or burial might be described as a baptism in the search results.


Postscript: having identified my cousins' arrival in Canada I was at last able to find their departures in the UK Outgoing Passenger Lists, where their surname had been indexed as Caloer (at findmypast) and as Calon (at Ancestry).


Disappearing email addresses

When I told Stuart about the release of my last newsletter the email came straight back - the address no longer existed. Fortunately Stuart had provided a secondary email address on his My Details page, so I was able to contact him - and it turned out to be just as well, because until I contacted him he was completely unaware that his primary address had stopped working!


Have you entered a secondary email address? It's worth checking - and if necessary you can use the address of a friend or relative, because I'll only use it if your primary address stops working.


Amateur films online

I don't often visit YouTube, but I recently discovered some great films from the early 1960s shot by members of the Pendle Film Society (now Pendle Movie Makers). Vanishing Britain from 1960 is in black and white, but all the more poignant as a result; there's also a series of short films about Nelson (Lancashire), made in 1962 - I particularly enjoyed The Old Routine. Well worth a look, since whilst the films may have been made by amateurs, they're very professional productions.


If you're lucky you might discover an old film of the town or village where you grew up - I found one of a 1938 wedding that took place just a mile from my childhood home.


Note: did you spot the knocker-up in 'Vanishing Britain'? In the 1911 Census most of the knocker-ups were recorded in Lancashire, including one Mary Brooks who clearly felt she needed to explain the term for the benefit of the enumerator (piece 24421, schedule 352). Mary Smith, a knocker-up in Limehouse, was an innovator - she was photographed in 1931 using a peashooter to wake people up.


Review: The Marriage Certificate

If you've enjoyed Steve Robinson's genealogical mysteries then you'll love The Marriage Certificate by Steven Molyneux. When I briefly mentioned the book in the last newsletter I said that I was instantly hooked, but that's too mild a description - I was enthralled by the way that the author weaves the different threads of the story together.


Although much of the action takes place in the early 20th century, the modern day hero is an amateur genealogist with whom I can truly identify - and not just because his name is Peter! When he discovers the certificate of the title in an antiques market he is intrigued - just as I was by the Birthday Book I wrote about at Christmas.


I find it hard to believe that this is the author's first book - it is so well-written. Will Stephen Molyneux, like Robert Galbraith, turn out to be a pseudonym?


Note: if you're outside the UK please use this link instead of the one above.



Genealogy in the Sunshine: update

Because the first course in March 2014 is an experiment it is being run on a non-profit basis. Indeed it will probably result in a loss, which is perhaps hardly surprising when you consider that the price I've quoted to LostCousins members for accommodation is less than half that being charged for the same apartments by another course which will be running at exactly the same time in the same beautiful resort!


However, the closer the numbers attending are to the limit of 40 participants the more likely it is that Genealogy in the Sunshine will break even - so, if you have been wavering, now is the time to claim one of the last 10 places.


Also, if you're already on the list but were hoping to bring friends or relatives with you, please confirm as soon as possible whether they will be coming. (However, if they're not going to be taking part in the course it's not quite so important for me to know at this stage.)


If you think you might be interested, but haven't yet had a copy of the information I circulated in mid-September, drop me an email right away! I can't publish the prices in my newsletter because I'd get into trouble with the resort.


Note: the photograph above shows Carvalho Beach (Praia do Carvalho), which is a 20 minute walk from the Rocha Brava resort where we'll be staying. I took the photo on Monday morning before catching my flight back to Stansted - as you can see, the beach was virtually deserted despite the gorgeous sunshine. See my July newsletter for some pictures of the resort itself (or use Google Earth to find out even more).


Could a power failure cut down your family tree?

I certainly hope that everyone reading this newsletter makes regular backups of their data, especially their family tree and the associated source documents. However experience shows that many of us aren't as careful as we ought to be - even I am not perfect when it comes to making backups.


A month ago I was busily writing my newsletter when there was a power cut here in Stansted. You can imagine how relieved I was when the power eventually came back on and I discovered that I'd only lost a sentence or two (and that all my other data was intact). But it might not have been like that, so I took a decision there and then to buy a battery backup device - you can see the one I bought here.


Thank goodness I did, because yesterday morning there was another power cut - however on this occasion the first I knew about it was when the battery backup started bleeping. I was able to finish what I was doing and close down all of the documents and programs that were open before powering down in my own time.


In the afternoon there was another interruption of power - but it was so brief that by the time I'd realised the power was back on again (I guess they were replacing the sticking plaster applied in the morning with a more permanent solution). But once again my new battery backup saved the day.


Peter's Tips

With gas and electricity prices going up (again) in Britain it's important to check that you're on the best tariff with the cheapest supplier. The best comparison service I've found is the free Which? Switch service, because as part of the non-profit Consumers' Association they're not biased towards suppliers who pay them commission. As a long-term member of the Consumers' Association I get Which? magazine every month and read it from cover to cover - just as my mother did half a century ago - and I don't think I've ever bought a household appliance without first checking their recommendations.


Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions for how I might utilise our abundance of elderberries - in the end I decided to make Pontack Sauce, though since most sources suggest allowing it to mature for several months (at least) I can't yet tell you whether it has been a success.


I also found myself making Wild Plum jam, thanks to a bumper harvest which is still not over. As a result of momentary inattentiveness I ended up with a thick caramelly confection and a black coating of burnt sugar at the bottom of my maslin pan - but it tastes absolutely superb, so I'm determined to make some more (once I've managed to finally clean the pan!).


There was also a big crop of wild blackberries this year, but the season finished long before our apples ripened, which makes me wonder how we were able to enjoy homemade blackberry and apple pie in my youth? We had an apple tree in our garden, and would gather blackberries at Hainault, on the edge of Epping Forest - I still have the scars!


Until Sunday you can save 20% on any Francis Frith calendar, so it's an excellent opportunity to buy some early Christmas presents (but only if you're quick). Or head over to Albelli where you can save 25% on their photobooks until the end of the month.


The tickets for the Tesco Wine Fair I offered in my last newsletter were claimed by Julia, who tells me she had a lovely day. As I'd paid for the tickets she kindly forwarded the discount code in the show guide, and the savings I made more than paid for the tickets - so I didn't completely lose out by going to Portugal to finalise the arrangements for Genealogy in the Sunshine.


It's worth remembering that if you place an online order at Tesco you can support LostCousins by clicking on the relevant advert on the LostCousins site (wine, groceries, clothing etc). There's only a 2% commission on most items, but it all helps to keep the site running and the cost of subscriptions down - unlike electricity prices LostCousins subscriptions haven't gone up since 2005!


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 some useful nuggets in this newsletter - and remember that some of the best tips come from LostCousins members like you!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2013 Peter Calver


You MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance. I have included bookmarks so you can link to a specific article: right-click on the relevant entry in the table of contents at the beginning of the newsletter to copy the link.


Please DO NOT re-publish any part of this newsletter, other than the list of contents at the beginning, without permission - either on your own website, in an email, on paper, or in any other format. It is better for all concerned to provide a link as suggested above, not least because articles are often updated.