Newsletter - 2nd September 2014
Big savings on Y-DNA tests ENDS WEDNESDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is
usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 21st
August) 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.
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Big savings on Y-DNA tests ENDS WEDNESDAY
You've got just one day to take advantage of the Family Tree DNA End-of-Summer Sale, which offers big discounts on Y-DNA tests. For example, a 37-marker test - the one I started with - costs just $129 (plus $9.95 shipping).
You don't have to return your sample before the offer runs out - you only need to place your order (and pay). Remember that the Y-chromosome is passed from father to son, so follows the direct paternal line - the one that one a conventional tree runs down the left-hand side.
Providing a sample is simple - you just scrape the plastic implement on the inside of your cheek (just don't do it immediately after a meal).
Of course, half the people reading this won't be able to provide a sample for a Y-DNA test - because they're female - but even if you're male, you might not be the right person to provide a sample. For example, when I wanted to trace my maternal grandfather's line I couldn't provide a sample myself, nor could any of my 1st cousins (because my grandfather had 4 daughters and no sons) - instead I asked a more distant cousin to provide a sample.
The general rule is that you need to find a male relative with the same surname as the male ancestor whose antecedents you're trying to track - because surnames also pass from father to son.
If you decide to take advantage of this offer please follow this link so that LostCousins will earn some commission.
In March this year, attendees at the first Genealogy in the Sunshine event sat in awe as Donald Davis, who had flown over from Canada, described his ground-breaking research into the census. We were privileged to be the first to hear his presentation, but in 2 weeks' time he will be in Europe again, to speak at the Society of Genealogists, and at my request he put together these short notes:
"When thirteen bundles of 1841 householders' schedules showed up in the Shropshire archives we could, for the first time, compare primary records to the census enumerators' books created from them.
"Enumerators' instructions made clear their role as editors, but how they applied the rules in transcribing the schedules of their literate householders (who filled up their own) varied from district to district. An analysis of the performance of thirteen Shropshire enumerators at a time when less than half the population could read and write instils confidence in the overall reliability of the records we use.
"How reliable your particular ancestor's enumerator was can best be determined (in the absence of surviving primary records) by answering the question, 'Did he follow the instructions at the front of his book?'. Some did and some did not. Those annoying diagonal slash marks made by the London census clerks are tallying marks made to determine totals for the parliamentary abstracts.
"At other times, however, the clerks intentionally masked words which had been recorded by overzealous enumerators. One Shropshire enumerator apparently believed he was supposed to write something in every box in the column for recording 'profession, trade, employment or if of independent means'. Most of these were not found on the householders' schedules! Those deemed irrelevant by the clerks were masked (but still sometimes decipherable by those with determination).
"If Lost Cousins members want to see how Louisa Georgeanna Cuyler ended up as Lucza Bast at Ancestry and discover the remarkable strengths of the 1841 census they are encouraged to come to the Society of Genealogists on the afternoon of 17th September."
You can find more details about Don's
- there were only
15 8 places left when I last checked, so don't delay!
Tip: although Don's presentation relates mainly to the 1841 Census, enumerators of later censuses are likely to have had similar failings and foibles - it's an insight into human nature that will help you to understand how secondary sources like enumeration schedules can both inform and mislead.
"A Village of the Moor", written by writer and naturalist Hope Bourne, and previously thought lost, has turned up in the archives of the Exmoor Society. At the time it was written it was rejected as "too contemporaneous", but almost half a century later it is a window onto a rural community at a time of change which, according to this BBC news article, will be published next year.
Nowadays we're used to marriages breaking up - if couples get married at all - so it was heart-warming to read this story about a Dorset couple who have just celebrated their 80th anniversary.
They courted for 4 years before tying the knot, having met in 1929, the year of the Great Crash. Aged 101 and 102 they still live independently, and according to their son Larry, their secret is setting themselves targets.
That's good news for family historians - we're always trying to knock down 'brick walls'!
WW1 PoW records: further information
Something that wasn't immediately apparent when I wrote about these records previously is that not all of the records have been indexed. For example, if you look up the surname Evans you'll find that there aren't any from the Welsh Regiment listed, which seems improbable, and when I looked up the surname Jones I couldn't find anyone at all.
I eventually found an entry on the ICRC blog which states that "the site will be steadily updated over the coming six months as further information is placed online, but it already offers access to all civilian-internee index cards and to 80 per cent of the cards for military prisoners from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and Germany."
So if you haven't yet found a record of your PoW ancestor, there's a chance it may show up later in the year (many thanks to Nina for alerting me to this).
Reuters recently published an eclectic collection of war photos from the collection of the Archive of Modern Conflict - you can see them here. I'd never heard of the Archive of Modern Conflict before, so I searched for more information, which led me to this YouTube clip.
Watching that short film reminded me very much of the Stephen Poliakoff drama Shooting the Past, which had an amazing cast - if you haven't already seen it, do get the DVD because it was one of the factors that inspired me to start researching my family tree.
Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the National Archives have created a catalogue of surviving records for army officers who fought in WW1. Whilst all of the service files for officers were destroyed during WW2 (along with 60% of the files for other ranks), the pension records have survived, and in many cases they include copies of information from the service files.
It's important to note that the records themselves are not available online - once you've identified the records of interest you'll need to visit Kew, or ask TNA to quote for providing photocopies. You can read more on the TNA site here (thanks also to Graham in Australia for his extremely helpful input).
The Friends of Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre (FOMA) recently announced the launch of the De Caville Index, which includes over 4,000 men killed in WW1 taken from memorials all over the Medway towns, including men born in the area, those stationed there during hostilities and the Live Bait Squadron.
The index contains unique information never before included in any other database, including name, dates of birth and death, rank, record number, address, burial place, and many photographs; entries are even cross-referenced to indicate family relationships. In addition there is a facility on the website for relatives and researchers to add information in order to build up a unique picture of the men who fought one hundred years ago.
There have been many local projects to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of war but this index, which has taken over a quarter of a century to compile, certainly stands out.
I was born just 5 years after the end of WW2, so it wasn't at all surprising that we still had an Anderson shelter in our garden, though by this time it was being used as a garden shed.
On the other side of the garden was our coal bunker, which - because we didn't have a side entrance - meant that the coalman had to bring the dirty sacks through the house. We also had to carry the dustbin through the house twice a week - no wonder my mother was so fastidious about dusting and vacuuming the house every day (personally I thought it was a waste of time, even on the days when I hadn't been roped in to help).
Anyway, I digress - getting back to Anderson shelters, the New York Daily News recently featured a story about children in England who discovered an old shelter in the grounds of their primary school (thanks to Kay in Oregon for alerting me).
I'm sure there must be many more Anderson shelters around - do you still have one in your garden?
PS: if you don't have an Anderson shelter in your garden, but would like one, there's one for sale on eBay (though you'll have to go to Alloa to collect it).
There's a lot of confusion about the difference between the terms England, Britain, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, and the British Isles - and it won't get any simpler should voters in Scotland choose to secede from the union in just over 2 weeks' time.
Until fairly recently the term England often referred to England & Wales; however England & Wales are more correctly described as Britain, a term that derives from the Roman name Britannia. (Around the end of the 2nd century the Romans divided Britannia into two provinces, Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior, but that's a tale for another time - and perhaps another place.)
In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King James of England on the death of Queen Elizabeth, but the two nations retained separate parliaments.
James had succeeded to the throne of Scotland in 1567, at the age of 13 months, when his mother - Mary Queen of Scots - was forced to abdicate. She had become Queen when she was just 6 days old, on the death of her father, James V - who had himself succeeded at the age of 17 months, when his father, James IV, was killed in battle. They were times of treachery and intrigue: James IV was put on the throne at the age of 15 years by rebels who killed his father, James III; Mary Queen of Scots married the man who some believed had murdered her second husband; she was eventually executed after being found guilty of plotting the assassination of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England.
In 1707, when Queen Anne was on the throne, the kingdoms of Scotland and England became the united kingdom of Great Britain, following separate acts passed by each of the countries' parliaments (earlier attempts to unite the kingdoms had failed). Anne was the daughter of James II of England (James VII of Scotland), and when he was deposed in the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 her sister Mary and brother-in-law William of Orange took the throne the following year (this game of 'musical thrones' was to continue on Anne's death when her distant cousin George Louis, the Elector of Hannover, became George I).
In 1801 Great Britain and Ireland became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland following acts passed by both parliaments (although the Irish parliament was far from representative of its population). In 1922 the Irish Free State was created, so from that point onwards it was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The British Isles is a geographical term for the islands of Ireland and Great Britain, together with thousands of smaller islands. I sometimes use the term as a convenient way of referring to the United Kingdom as it was between 1801 and 1921, a period which is of particular interest to family historians.
Because of the complicated political history of the islands the incorrect use of any of these terms can be annoying or even upsetting, so I'm always very careful to pick the right one (though even when I use them correctly I occasionally get emails from readers who have read something into my words that wasn't intended). As family historians we need to be particularly careful how we use words, because what we write might well be quoted by others.
I'm going to end with some specific examples which have caused confusion in the past:
As a family historian, having Scottish ancestors is good news and bad news. The good news is that Scottish BMD certificates are more detailed than English certificates, and you can access the historic registers online, something that those of us with English and Welsh ancestors have been pleading with the GRO to consider for many years.
The bad news is that the only way to view the Scottish census images from the comfort of your own home (or indeed from anywhere outside of Scotland) is to use the Government-owned ScotlandsPeople site, which is a pay-per-view site. As somebody who rang up a bill of over £150 in just 12 months at the original 1901 Census site I wince whenever I come across a pay-per-view site, because I know I'm going to be torn between researching comprehensively, as I would at a subscription site, and doing it frugally, in the vain hope that I can get all the answers without running up a big bill.
Fortunately it is possible to search transcriptions of the Scottish censuses at Ancestry, findmypast, and FamilySearch - and this can help to keep the cost down. Unfortunately only one of those three sites (Ancestry) currently includes the census references in their transcription, so if you want to enter relatives from the Scotland 1881 census on your My Ancestors page - as I hope you will - you have a very limited choice of sources.
Note: Valentine recently drew my attention to a strange problem with Ancestry's 1881 Census whereby people from different households in different streets are listed as if they are in the same household - for example, if you look up Charles S Taylor aged 21 at findmypast you'll find him with his parents and 4 brothers, whereas if you look him up at Ancestry he will appear to be in a household with 4 unrelated people.
The old findmypast site did include the Scottish census references (although they were wrongly labelled) so I'm fairly sure that they will be available at the new site in time.
Note: the odds of finding 'lost cousins' through the 1881 Scotland census have recently improved significantly, thanks to the members who took part in last weekend's event (which was publicised by email to everyone who had already entered Scottish relatives). However there's still some way to go before it will be as easy to find cousins through the Scottish census as through the English census.
On your My Summary page at the LostCousins site there's lots of useful information, but perhaps the most useful is your 'Match Potential', which estimates your chances of discovering living relatives based on the entries on your My Ancestors page.
For example, if your Match Potential is shown as (say) 2.531 this indicates that with average luck you would have found 2 or 3 new relatives.
To increase your Match Potential add further entries to your My Ancestors page; if you focus on the 1881 censuses we use at LostCousins (England & Wales, Scotland, and Canada) your entries will have a greater impact on your Match Potential than if you use one of the newer censuses - that's because the censuses we've been using the longest are the ones your 'lost cousins' are most likely to have used.
Tip: once you've entered your direct ancestors and their households the next step is to enter the members of their extended families. This many involve you in additional research, because not everyone researches their collateral lines, but since these are the relatives most likely to link you to your 'lost cousins' it's well worth doing.
Interestingly, your Match Potential will increase even if you don't add any more entries - in fact, it went up by about 1% last month. This is because other members, some of whom are your 'lost cousins', are entering their own relatives - but if you want the figure to go up more quickly (and I strongly suspect you do), the best way is to take matters into your own hands.
Although the LostCousins forum hasn't yet officially opened, the members who have the highest Match Potential have already been invited to join. This privilege reflects the effort they've put in - not just to help themselves, but also to help their cousins.
Why not check your My Summary page to see if you qualify? If you do, there will be a coupon code to enter when your register at the forum.
If you've got a Yahoo email address (or one that is managed by Yahoo, such as Sky.com) be prepared for a long wait when you request a password reminder.
In most cases they delay automatic emails sent from the LostCousins site by at least 4 hours on the grounds that they've had complaints from users - which since most of these emails have been requested by the intended recipients is clearly pure hokum (indeed, if I wasn't so easy-going I'd call it defamatory).
These delays don't only affect password reminders, they are likely to affect messages sent to you by your cousins, as well as copies of messages you yourself have sent through the site.
If your primary email address (ie the one I wrote to in order to tell you about this newsletter) is a Yahoo-managed address I'd strongly recommend that you provide a different one - 4 hours is an awfully long time to wait when all you want to do is log-in.
Tip: if you choose not to follow my advice, please don't request additional reminders when your first password reminder fails to arrive; this will make it look as if we're sending you spam emails, and so can only make matters worse!
If, like me, you enjoyed Hiding the Past you'll be delighted to hear that forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is back to solve another challenging mystery, courtesy of author Nathan Dylan Goodwin. I haven't yet read The Lost Ancestor but it's sitting on my Kindle just waiting for me to find the time. There should be a paperback version soon - I'll let you know more in the next newsletter.
Another genealogical mystery with 'Lost' in the title is due out next month: The Lost Empress by Steve Robinson is the 4th in his series of mysteries featuring genealogist Jefferson Tayte.† I'm sure everyone reading this newsletter has read at least one of Steve's earlier books (In the Blood, To the Grave, and The Last Queen of England), so you don't need me to tell you how good a writer he is.
One book that has been recommended to me by several members, but hasn't featured in my newsletter until now is Where's Merrill, by Gearoid O'Neary. Although the author is Irish, the genealogy is American, which doesn't appeal to me as much - and has resulted in a fairly mixed bag of reviews at Amazon.co.uk (although, to be fair, 9 out of 15 readers gave it 5 stars).
The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) have strengthened their criteria for Membership and Associate Membership. In future all applicants wishing to join the association will now have to attend an interview, and in most cases will also be asked to undergo practical tests. The new rules also attach greater importance to formal qualifications and ongoing learning.
Geoff Swinfield, who is a member of AGRA's Board of Assessors, said that "AGRA plays a key role in setting standards within the profession. If AGRA is to be relevant in the future it must give its Members the opportunity to demonstrate that they meet the exacting standards which fit them to offer their services to the fee-paying public."
In my opinion you are the best person to research your family history - but if you don't have time, or if you have reached the point where specialist expertise is needed, you can't do better than choose an AGRA member.
More blackberries this weekend, which was a bit of a surprise, because when I was young I was taught that you had to pick them no later than August Bank Holiday. Is it global warming - or just the fact that Bank Holiday Monday was earlier than usual?
I bought my wife a new phone for her birthday (I know it doesn't sound very romantic, but they are fashion items these days) and we're going to take the opportunity to switch her from Orange to GiffGaff. This will save her at least £10 a month, and she'll also be able to use her new phone as a WiFi hotspot, which she couldn't do with her old phone.
This week I suffered my first bad debt at Zopa - a mere 86p - but in any case the loss was covered by the Safeguard fund that Zopa set up last year to protect members against losses. Considering that I've been earning around 5% on my savings I couldn't be happier about the way things have worked out!
If you do decide to follow my example, and end up investing £2000 or more, we can each get a £50 bonus provided you register using this link. And while interest rates for savers are generally still in the doldrums, Zopa are currently guaranteeing that you'll get a minimum of 5.2% on 4 and 5 year loans (after charges).
Finally, just to confirm (following my Stop Press mention last time) that Amazon are still offering the Kindle Fire HD at just £89, a reduction of £30 - follow this link for more details.
I didn't quite get the blackberry story right - see the next issue for an update; also the JONES entries on the ICRC site can be found by searching for JOHNE (thanks, Steve for that tip).
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter - I hope you find it useful.
© Copyright 2014 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 this newsletter to copy the link. But why not invite them to join instead?