Newsletter - September 14, 2009




Presenting…. LostCousins! adds 1881 images

How reliable is Ancestry?

Households on two census pages

Last chance to sign National Archives petition

Keeping track of your cousins

1911 Ireland census now online

Indexing the newsletters

Did your ancestor fight at Waterloo?

My ancestors were poor

Is this the oldest person in a photograph? (Part 3)

Were your relatives on the stage?

Find those cousins NOW!

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 26/8/09), or would like to see it again, click here. All newsletters since February 2009 are still available online.



On Thursday I had the honour of speaking to the Essex Society for Family History: South East Essex Computer Group in Southend. I always get a good reception when I talk about LostCousins, and this was no exception.


Unfortunately, whilst LostCousins has members all over the world, there's a limit to how far I can travel - and so I came up with a great idea! There are numerous members who are wonderful advocates for the LostCousins project - so why not empower them to talk on my behalf by providing copies of the PowerPoint presentation I gave?


If you would be interested in presenting to your local group please get in touch, so that I can send you a copy of the presentation. You don't need to own PowerPoint, as there's a free viewer that you can download from the Microsoft site (or else you can use the free OpenOffice suite).




In my last newsletter I reported that had not only completed their transcription of the 1901 England & Wales Census, but also made available new high resolution images of the census pages. Now I learn that they've rescanned the 1881 Census too, and made those images available online - and I believe the 1851 Census will be completed by the end of this year, giving them a full set from 1841-1901. will be the first subscription site to offer the 1911 Census, though nobody knows exactly when this will be; in the meantime credits purchased at findmypast can also be used at the 1911 Census site. *** SEE STOP PRESS FOR UPDATE ***


Family Tree Maker



It can be difficult enough finding information about your ancestors - the last thing you need is a website that promises more than it delivers. But since my article last month about the problems at which affect as many as 5% of all the entries in the 1881 England & Wales Census, I've been inundated with emails from members reporting other issues, some of which seem to have arisen recently. Note that these problems affect not only censuses, but BMD indexes too - my tests suggest that as many as 10% of these entries are missing or have been incorrectly transcribed, and there are other problems too with these new and supposedly 'complete' indexes.


I was going to list all the problems that have been reported by members, but then I realised that because it's quite a long list, you'd probably find it boring reading - and in any case, the errors reported to me are probably just the tip of the iceberg. What I'm going to do instead is give some general advice:


·         Avoid using the 'new search' if you can - at various places in the site there's a link near the top right that takes you to the 'old search' (note: you can recognise the 'new search' by the lightning symbol on the Search button)

·         Tick the 'Exact matches only' box, otherwise the record you're looking for could be so far down the list that you never spot it; use wildcards to overcome spelling mistakes and transcription errors

·         If you really must use the 'new search', be very wary of the place name prompts; for example, if you select "Bristol, Somerset, England" you'll get less than half as many results from UK databases as when you simply type "Bristol"

·         Always search individual databases rather than using a global search, or searching multiple censuses simultaneously

·         If you suddenly find yourself at the site (it keeps happening to me, though I don't know why) go back to immediately!

·         If you're entering relatives from 1841 on your My Ancestors page, check the references against the census image - Ancestry often omit the folio number from the transcript, but even when it is given, it is often wrong

·         Think very seriously indeed about switching to when your Ancestry subscription expires (you  can cancel at any time before the renewal date - it won't affect your current subscription). No site can ever be perfect, but at least is good and getting better, whilst Ancestry seems to be getting worse


I'm going to end this article with a quote from a brief extract from a complaint sent to Ancestry by one of their subscribers who is also a LostCousins member:


"I am extremely disappointed in [Ancestry's] census transcriptions.  On many, many occasions (at least 25), I have had to go to findmypast after being unable to zero in on a particular person.  In 95% of the cases, findmypast comes up with the person immediately. The number of transcription errors is outrageous.  I have sent many corrections to you.  Some have not been corrected after months of waiting…."



It's not unusual for a family recorded in the 1841-1901 censuses to overlap from one page onto the next - the larger the household, the more likely this is.


However, when you're entering a family on your My Ancestors page, always record the entire household as if they were all on the same page as the head of the family. This will save you time and ensure that your entries can be matched with the entries made by your 'lost cousins'.



When I wrote in the last newsletter about the petition to keep the National Archives open on Mondays there were just 75 signatories. Thanks to the support of LostCousins members the number has risen above 1000, but I'm sure we can do even better. You don't need to have visited Kew in person to appreciate how important it is to prevent the facilities of our most important archive being decimated eroded - please sign before the deadline next week (September 23rd).



If you've been researching your family tree for a few years you'll almost certainly have made contact with dozens of living relatives. Sadly it is all too easy to lose touch with them as a result of a change in email address - and that's where LostCousins can help.


You probably think of your My Cousins page as the place to meet the 'lost cousins' you're matched with - which of course it is. But you can also add relatives you already know: either by clicking Add a known cousin (in the top right-hand corner), or by using your My Referrals page. Use Add a known cousin if you think your relative is already a member; use My Referrals if they haven't yet joined.


How does this help you manage your contacts? When you link with someone you already know their email address is always shown; should they change their email address the information shown on your My Cousins page is automatically updated. This helps in two ways: if they tell you about their change of email address, but forget to tell me - you can remind them to update their My Details page; similarly if they tell me, but forget to tell you it won't matter, because you'll have their new address already.


But what if they don't tell either of us, and you don't have any other way of contacting them? There are still several possibilities. First, they may have provided a secondary email address; second, they may have provided a postal address; and third, they may have been linked with another cousin who does have their new email address. I'll do whatever it takes to put you in touch with your relative, even if it's someone you originally found through Genes Reunited!


Don't leave it too late - you can't add someone to your My Cousins page unless you know their current email address.



There have been so many delays in the project to put the 1901 and 1911 Ireland censuses online that it was a very pleasant surprise when the entire 1911 Census recently became available at the National Archives of Ireland site. It's my hope that before very long it will be possible to add an Irish census to the list of censuses supported at LostCousins.



I've set myself the task of indexing the articles in all the online newsletters published since February, when the new system started - and then keeping the index up to date. This will be a very useful resource, not only for members but for me too!


However, as this will be the first time that I've created on online index I'd like to learn from the experiences of those who have gone before - so please get in touch if you think you may be able to help.



2015 will be the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Although it is not mentioned on the Waterloo 200 website, I understand that there is an initiative to trace the descendants of the 39,000 men recorded in the British Waterloo Medal Roll. If one of your ancestors was under Wellington's command I'd recommend you look out for future announcements.



I found out some time ago that my great-great-great grandmother Ruth Beamont (nee Butwell) had died alone in the Watford Union Workhouse in 1855 at the age of 52, but it was only when I read a biography of Elizabeth Pepperell, my first cousin twice removed, that I realised that my ancestors from another line were still suffering at the end of the 19th century.


It was the fortuitous discovery of her biography at Amazon which prompted the first of my new Have you tried...? articles in the last newsletter. At the time I was still waiting for the book to arrive, so I had no idea what it might reveal - but as this brief extract shows, it was an eye-opener:


"Dad's father, William John Pepperell, had been a skilled craftsman, a coppersmith. He died when he was only 40, leaving a widow and seven children. For the four younger children his widow was offered the choice of tickets for food, or the orphanage… she chose the orphanage [where] they would get regular food and a strict upbringing…. The children were split up in the orphanage and only managed to see each other by making a daily rendezvous in a corner of the playground."


(from 'Elizabeth Pepperell' by Maud Reed, published by The Industrial Society, 1973)


William John Pepperell was my great-great grandfather, who died in 1885 aged 46 (not 40 - this discrepancy is an example of how information passed down within the family can be inaccurate). His widow, Mary Ann Burns, is my most challenging 'brick wall' - though I've found her on 5 censuses, there are 3 different birthplaces recorded, and I'm wondering whether her birth was ever registered.


My Pepperell ancestors lived in Bow, just down the road from Stepney where William Booth was compiling his casebooks (see the article in my last newsletter). I'm delighted to say that Marnie has volunteered to help me take the information in the casebooks and turn it into an historical research project at LostCousins - with considerable success already! More volunteers are needed, however - please let me know if you too would like to help.



Readers of this newsletter have now pushed back the date of the earliest person to be photographed even further. No sooner had my last newsletter been published than I received an email from Giles Colchester, who has a Daguerreotype photograph (right) of his 3x great grandmother Deborah Colchester nee Death who was born on 8th April 1761 in Wherstead, Suffolk.  She died on 19 April 1850, so the picture was almost certainly taken in the 1840s.


Deborah Death married Benjamin Colchester at Stowmarket in 1782 and had eight children who, in turn, gave her 21 grandchildren.  During her life she had 11 great grandchildren, and a further 21 great grandchildren after her death - so just think how many living descendants there must be today! If you think you may be connected click her photograph - you'll be taken to the Colchester Family History website.


However, Daily Telegraph readers have found an even earlier person - Martin Routh who was born in 1755.  As the first Daguerreotype photographic studio opened in Regent Street London in June 1841, I was optimistic that LostCousins members would be able to do even better - and I wasn't disappointed. But first I'd like to show you some other intriguing photographs.

On the left is a picture of Thomas Starkey (1778-1851) in which you can just see the Naval General Service Medal he was awarded in 1847, together with a bar for the Battle of Java on 1811. According to Linda - who sent me this photo of her 4G grandfather - campaign medals were not generally awarded to all ranks prior to the Battle of Waterloo, and it was only after a lengthy campaign that they were eventually awarded by Queen  Victoria in 1847. What brought the story to life for me was seeing the actual medal (right)!


Jack wrote from Canada with a photograph of his 3G grandparents John Leigh and Ann Sutton, who were married in Burslem, Staffordshire - heart of the Potteries - in 1811. They emigrated c1830 to Wallerfangen, Saarland, Germany where John Leigh joined the firm of Villeroy (now Villeroy and Boch), the story being that he was hired to introduce the English style of transfer-printing. Jack would very much like to hear from anyone who can pinpoint John Leigh's baptism, as there are several possibilities around 1792. If you click on the photo you'll be taken to a larger version on our website - do they look familiar?


Edward in the US wrote to me about his 4G grandfather John Langdon who was born in Long Island, New York in 1754 - but sadly I can't show you the photo as the New England Historical Genealogical Society library in Boston, who own the photo, didn't respond to my request.


But the oldest submission so far from a LostCousins member is Jeremiah Powell, born in Massachusetts in 1750, whose descendant Richard sent me this photo (left) taken on his 100th birthday! Jeremiah Powell served in the revolutionary war, enlisting in 1775, and must have seen enormous changes during his long life - he died in 1852 aged 101. Once again the 50,000 readers of this newsletter have stolen the lead from the 2 million readers of the Daily Telegraph!


Many thanks to all the members who wrote and sent photographs, and especially to Giles Colchester who helped me write this article.



Linda tipped me off about an unusual archive: The Stage newspaper, which commenced publication in 1880. If you have relatives who were in the theatre it's an opportunity to find out a little more about them (just so long as you know their stage name).


It's free to search the archive, but to view or print any of the results you'll need to buy a pass, which allows unlimited access for a fixed period. I've negotiated a special deal for LostCousins members - until the end of October the offer code COUSINS24 will give you 2 days for the price of 1, whilst the code COUSINS25 will give you 2 weeks for the price of 1. Let me know if you make any interesting discoveries!



Well over half of the members reading this newsletter have never found a 'lost cousin'. Why? Though some are just unlucky, more often it's because they haven't entered very many of their relatives from the 1881 Census (none at all in some cases!).


As in most aspects of life, misunderstandings are often to blame. For example, some members think that it is going to be time-consuming to complete their My Ancestors page - but in fact, entering the data takes remarkably little time so long as you've found your relatives on the census. 


Should you experience any difficulty finding your relatives on the census then I'd recommend an article I've written called "Key Tips for Census Success", which you'll find on the Help & Advice page at the LostCousins site. The most important tips are listed on the first page of the article - and if that doesn't solve your problem you can always ask for my help.



Have you ever paid more than £7 (about $12) for a birth, marriage, or death certificate from England & Wales? That's how much it costs to order a certificate from the General Register Office, just so long as you've found the event in their indexes - and this price includes postage (airmail where appropriate).


There are plenty of sites that will offer to supply certificates at vastly inflated prices, including Ancestry - who will charge you £19.99 and take up to 3 weeks to despatch, or £39.99 if you want to get them (almost) as quickly as you would have done from the GRO for a mere £7.00! It really doesn't make sense to order GRO certificates from anyone other than the GRO - after all, if you order through a middleman it will still originate from the GRO.


However, there is an even better option - get the certificate from the local register office that holds the original registers. The GRO indexes and registers are copies of the local entries, and in the days before computers (more recent than you might think!) the entries were copied by hand. Not only are locally-sourced certificates less likely to contain errors, marriage certificates will usually show the actual signatures  - but check in advance if this is as important to you as it is to me, since another option for marriages that took place in a church is to get a copy of the church register entry (which will always show actual signatures).


Whatever you're buying, don't rule out the possibility that you might find it cheaper on eBay. When I wanted a stairlift for my elderly father my first thought was to try Help the Aged (they are a charity, after all), but then I discovered I could get a Stannah stairlift on eBay for half the price - and direct from the manufacturer too, not from some fly-by-night merchant.


Summer is over, and as the temperature falls it's time to turn on the central heating - a good time, then, to check whether you're getting the best possible deal for gas and electricity. Last week I heard money-saving expert Martin Lewis on Radio 4 saying that many people still get their gas from British Gas and their electricity from their local electricity company - the worst possible combination!


As I'm sure you know, you get exactly the same gas and electricity whoever you buy it from. The meter doesn't change, and nor does the meter reader. All that changes is the name on the bill - and, of course, the price that you pay. You don't have to sign up for any minimum period, so it's not like changing your phone supplier - there is absolutely no commitment. And it takes just 10 minutes to complete the online forms. You can't avoid paying for lighting and heating, but you can keep the cost down!



The Consumers Association is a charity set up to represent consumers, so I always use their Which?Switch website, which offers a free and impartial service. The average annual saving is £257 - which would be a pretty good payback for 10 minutes of your time, wouldn't you agree?



It's obvious when you think about it - but have you ever thought about it? From 1912 onwards the General Register Office birth indexes show the mother's maiden name - which offers a new way to search for young twigs on the branches of your family tree, because at some sites you can search on maiden name alone. Even if you don't know who your female relatives married, you may still be able to find the births of their children - just so long as the surname isn't a common one.


FreeBMD has very good coverage up to 1931, so this is one tip that won't cost you a penny to try!



According to the blog at the 1911 Census website the census will be available at from October, though NOT as part of the existing subscription package. You'll be able to take out a standalone subscription for the 1911 Census at £39.95 for 6 months or £59.95 for 12 months, or else buy a combined package. However, don't let that put you off buying an Explorer subscription now - anyone who takes out a subscription before that date will be able to upgrade simply by paying the difference. Get a 5% discount on NEW subscriptions when you enter the code NDX24SUB (existing subscribers get a loyalty discount of 20% instead - no need to enter any code).


My first reaction was that £59.95 sounded rather a lot for a single census - but then I remembered that I spent over £150 accessing the 1901 Census when that came out (and, of course, as an existing subscriber I'll get a 20% loyalty discount when I upgrade). Nevertheless, for some people it's clearly going to be cheaper to continue with credits.


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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