Newsletter - 7th April 2020


The wrong end of the stick

Have you ever made a mistake?

LostCousins is FREE for Easter ENDS APRIL 15TH


Self-isolation: is the sacrifice worth it?

When food really was rationed

It wasn't just the British who went without

Findmypast still offering 20% discount ENDS APRIL 14TH

Looking forward to 1921: historical information on British businesses

Living the Poor Life

Unusual census entries

Review: Norwich & Norfolk: Stone Age to the Great War

Review: The Magic of German Church Records

Peter's Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 31st March) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



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!



The wrong end of the stick

There are two common mistakes that people make when they look at the LostCousins website. One is to think that itís a people-tracing service; the other, far more common, is to assume that the goal is to connect people to their cousins.


Nobody who reads what it says on the home page before they join is going to make those mistakes, but considering that LostCousins has been going for almost 16 years (our birthday is on 1st May) there are probably lots of people reading this who won't remember why they joined. You might be one of them!


So what is LostCousins really about? The goal is to help you find out more about your ancestors by putting you in contact with other family historians researching the same ancestral lines.


Naturally someone who is researching your ancestors is likely to be a cousin of yours, and that has benefits too - not just social networking, but the chance to compare DNA matches in order to knock down 'brick walls'. But finding cousins is just a step towards the real goal, which is to find out more about the ancestors you share. Unless you can afford to employ a large team of genealogists, collaborating with cousins is the only way you can give all of your ancestors the attention they deserve. If any one of those ancestors had died in infancy, or failed to procreate, you wouldn't be around today - a sobering thought.


Go back just 8 generations to the early 1700s and there are over 250 ancestral lines to consider; go back 3 more generations to the early 1600s and now there are over 2000 - no one person can possibly research them all single-handed.


That's why it's so important to collaborate with other researchers - by working together we can achieve far more than any one of us would working on our own. Whether you're working with a 3rd cousin who shares 12.5% of your ancestors, or a 6th cousin who shares only 1.6%, you're going to achieve more when you work together than you possibly can when you work independently. If your ancestors were mostly British there are currently around 200 LostCousins members who are your 6th cousin or closer - itís an enormous resource, but one that is easy to ignore because you wonít know the names of your 'lost cousins'.


Are you one of those who hasnít entered a single relative on your My Ancestors page? Or only a token handful? Now's the time to put that right - your cousins depend on you just as much as you depend on them!


Tip: because ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, it's by starting as early as you can, then tracing your branches through to 1881, that you're going to maximise the number of 'lost cousins' you find (and also give yourself the best chance of winning one of the 100 prizes on offer in my Easter competition).



Have you ever made a mistake?

We all make mistakes - all of us that is, apart from those who are in a position of power which allows them to rewrite history, be they journalists or politicians. And even they make the mistake of thinking they can fool all of us all of the time.


Some errors canít be corrected - the die is cast - but mistakes on your My Ancestors page are really easy to fix. All you need to do is click the person's name, make the change(s) and click Save. Easy-peasy, and if youíre one of the millions who are in isolation right now it's something useful to do in your spare time.


But how do you know that an entry needs to be corrected? A good place to start is with the entries that don't have red, blue, or grey ticks against them (where there is a tick it indicates that your entry has matched with that of another member, so it's probably correct).


Begin by sorting your My Ancestors page into Household order (check the appropriate 'radio button' at the top of the page). Now work down the page looking for households that have no ticks at all. In most cases you'll see a little arrow in front of the census references - clicking this arrow automatically carries out a search of the relevant census (depending on the census it could utilise Findmypast, Ancestry, or FamilySearch).


If you get no search results at all this usually indicates that the census references are incorrect. Although you're probably more interested in names and dates, census references are incredibly important because they define a page in the census - get one of the references wrong and youíre either pointing to the wrong page or a page that doesn't exist. Either way it means your entry canít possibly match your cousins' entries - and that's why checking entries using the arrows provided is so important.


Tip: always read the notes on the Add Ancestor/Edit Ancestor forms (the advice varies according to the census); for more information about where to find census references see the FAQs page.


You only need to click one arrow per household - that's because the census references for the head of household should be used for every member of a private household, even if some of your relatives are recorded on the next page.


Of course, you only need to check your entries once, and the best time is to do it is at the time you enter a new household. But more than half of all entries in the LostCousins database were submitted before the checking arrows were added - it's only in the last few years that it has been so quick and easy to check that the census references are correct.


The fewer matches you have, the more likely it is that some or all of your entries are incorrect. So if you donít have any matches at all, donít blame the system (or your cousins), check to make sure that you're not the one at fault. None of us wants to discover that we've made mistakes, but if our errors are blocking our path it would be extremely pig-headed of us to ignore them!



LostCousins is FREE for Easter ENDS APRIL 15TH

I mentioned last month that despite the pandemic LostCousins would be free for Easter as usual. The FREE period starts now, and runs until midnight on Wednesday 15th April, so you've got plenty of time to enter more relatives from the census and connect with 'lost cousins'.


Normally you'd need to be a LostCousins subscriber to initiate contact with a new cousin, but over the next week there will be no restrictions. Even better, it doesnít matter if your cousin doesn't respond until after the free period has ended - itís only the initial invitation that requires a subscription.


Tip: if youíre an Ancestry user like me you'll be familiar with the problem of other members not responding, no matter how many reminders you send - for all you know your messages might be disappearing into a 'block hole'. But at LostCousins you've got someone who will follow up if a cousin doesnít respond after 14 days - I'll do everything within my power to connect cousins.


Remember, every relative you enter from the 1881 Censuses could win you a prize - see the last issue for full details of my Easter Egg Hunt, with 100 prizes worth over £2000.




A lot of new members join during the periods when LostCousins is free (there are several each year), but they may not have time to enter all of their relatives from the 1881 Census before the offers ends. This is not only bad news for them, itís bad news for those of us who are their 'lost cousins'.


So this year there's a special offer for anyone who joins LostCousins. By entering the offer code #STAYATHOME in the box at the bottom of the registration page they can get a free upgrade to Subscriber status that lasts until 1st May 2020, our 16th birthday - giving them up to 16 days extra to complete their My Ancestors page and invite their new cousins to correspond.


You are welcome to share this code on social media, but please make clear that LostCousins is a site for people who are researching their family tree, and not a people-tracing service. I donít like disappointing people, and I'm sure you donít either.


Note: this code will only work when entered on the registration page - this means it can't be used by existing members, but of course you've already had 2 weeks to enter your relatives since the free period was first announced.



Self-isolation: is the sacrifice worth it?

In 1666 the villagers of Eyam in Derbyshire were quarantined in order to prevent the spread of bubonic plague to the surrounding villages - and one of them, just 2 miles away, is the village of Calver (which many believe is the source of my surname, though I'm not so sure).


According to this BBC News article 260 residents of Eyam died of the plague between 1665 and 1666 - a significant proportion of the population. But was their sacrifice necessary?


Whereas in 2020 we're guided by the advice of medical experts, in the 17th century nobody understood how bubonic plague was transmitted - indeed, it was only in the 1890s that it was discovered to be caused by a bacterium that was carried by fleas from rats to humans. Unlike COVID-19, bubonic plague rarely spreads directly from one human being to another - but the villagers of Eyam weren't to know that.


On the other hand, had they left the village they would probably have taken fleas with them, in their clothing and other belongings, or even in their hair - so in practice the quarantine was both necessary and effective.


The Great Plague of 1665-66 was the last significant outbreak of bubonic plague in England - but although it killed an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people in London, more than one-fifth of the population the city at the time, its impact was trivial compared to the Black Death. This earlier epidemic devastated Europe between 1346-53, and is thought to have killed between one-third and one-half of the population.


In 2020 we're not being asked to sacrifice our lives, but our freedom of movement - and given what we know about the virus it makes perfect sense. Only the young, who think they're invincible, and the foolish, who donít think at all, can screw it up for the rest of us. Let's hope they don't!



When food really was rationed

Last year I published several extracts from Peter Cox's excellent compilation, Growing Up in London, 1930-1960 - unfortunately copies of the book sold out soon after I wrote about it - and no wonder, itís a marvellously evocative record of an earlier age. A lot of members subsequently downloaded a free PDF copy of the book (you'll find it on the Peter's Tips page of the LostCousins website), but given the current circumstances we're faced with I thought it was worth sharing some of the passages from Chapter 8, entitled Food:


"In the food people had available in our period of 1930Ė60 there appear to be three distinct phases, corresponding pretty much to each decade. In the 1930s, before rationing; in the 1940s both during and after the war when there were severe rationing restrictions of both choice and quantity; and the 1950s, when rationing had more-or-less finished. They are though similar, yet entirely different from today, in one key respect. There was a very restricted range of food available, and self-service supermarkets did not exist. Only a handful of well-off people had fridges, so perishable food went off quickly and shopping expeditions were more frequent. You rarely bought cakes, but the housewife would bake cakes and buns, and make pastry and puddings the hard way. There were no such things as Ďready mealsí and very little eating out, especially among our contributors. And for fresh produce the year was divided into distinct seasons, seasons which from a shopping viewpoint weíve almost entirely forgotten."


"Britain imported 20 million tons of food before World War II began, including well over half its meat, cheese, sugar, fruit, cereals and fats. Food shortages soon became apparent as imports rapidly began to dry up Ė the volume had fallen by 80% by the end of that first October. Rationing began in the second week of 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar. Later in 1940 meat, tea and cooking fat were added. In 1941 cheese, jam and eggs, in 1942 tomatoes, dried fruit, biscuits and rice. Potatoes, fruit and fish werenít rationed, but their availability fluctuated. Fish volumes for example dropped to about 30% of pre-war levels."


"The precise quantities of rationed foods varied as circumstances changed, but the following would be typical in the middle of the war, for one adult for a week. Butter, cheese and tea Ė 50gm. Margarine and bacon or ham 100gm, sugar 225gm, milk about one to two litres, one egg, meat to the value of 1/2, sweets 90gm. Pregnant women and nursing mothers had double the egg ration, a pint of milk a day, and the first choice of fruit. Children from 5Ė16 had a modified ration, including the full meat ration and half a pint of milk a day. In addition each person had 16 Ďpointsí they could use each week. From 1946Ė48 bread was rationed for the first time."


"Sweets were rationed and a Mars bar cut into five slices would serve for a mid-morning snack each weekday. Yes, one Mars bar to last a whole week."


"Where we were evacuated we went for school dinners to the British Restaurant in Cheyne Lane. These communal kitchens, run by local councils, served highly subsidised coupon-free meals costing ninepence, and I have fond memories of spam fritters and stuffed cabbage, although that may have been simply the hunger of a growing girl."


"We were staying with a woman and her four pretty daughters in a big farm house. These girls were being dated by American soldiers and one day one of them brought an extraordinary treat to the house. It was something I had never seen before and that the girls had not seen in four or five years Ė a fresh orange."


"When my first was born in 1947 the cheese allowance was pretty small so we decided to register the baby as a vegetarian. This involved going to the local police station and declaring this was babyís wish, thence to the food office to get the appropriate ration book. About a year later, the cheese ration went down but the meat ration increased. You can imagine the procedure to convince the food office that baby was a carnivore after all. It was all rather a pity because as a registered vegetarian one was able to get certain extras such as dried fruits off points and dried bananas; we didnít see a fresh banana for years.


We might be struggling to find the food we want now, but at least weíre better off than our forebears were in the 1940s! Mind you, I chuckled when I read the excerpt about slicing a Mars bar into 5 - in the 1950s my father would slice a Mars bar into 8 or 12 pieces so that it would last the whole family for 2 or 3 days. We'd do the same with ice cream - in those days you could buy a Neapolitan 'brick' from the ice cream van, and even though the ice box in our fridge didnít keep it properly frozen we'd still make it last for 2 days. (I found a 1953 advert for Walls ice cream 'bricks' on eBay - you can see it here.)


In 2020 many vulnerable people are receiving food parcels, and one LostCousins member is keeping a record of the contents. So far Elaine has received two weekly parcels; the first (received on Saturday 28th March) contained the following:


Loaf of white sliced bread

2 toilet rolls

3 tins tomato soup

Tin corned beef

Tin tuna chunks

Large tin mushy peas

Large tin fruit cocktail

Large tin of tomato pure

Tin baked beans

5 small cartons semi skimmed milk

Basmati rice -2 mins in microwave

Large bag of potatoes

Large bag of carrots

Bag of 6 apples

Bag of satsumas

Bag of rice crispy cereal

Plastic bag containing tea bags, instant coffee, individual biscuits, toilet soap, hotel sized body wash


The contents were broadly similar in the second week - but I wonder whether it varies according to the region?



It wasn't just the British who went without

Those of you who lived through WW2 rationing in Britain might be surprised to learn that there was also rationing in the USA. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has information about wartime rationing in a section aimed at students and teachers.


This quote from the website explains why there were shortages:


"Food was in short supply for a variety of reasons: much of the processed and canned foods was reserved for shipping overseas to our military and our Allies; transportation of fresh foods was limited due to gasoline and tire rationing and the priority of transporting soldiers and war supplies instead of food; imported foods, like coffee and sugar, was limited due to restrictions on importing."


As you can see from this page from a ration book recycling was also important. I donít know about you, but since the current lockdown started I've been thinking very carefully before throwing anything away, whether itís dripping from the roast, trimmings from the vegetables, or the packaging that the food came in.




Findmypast still offering 20% discount ENDS APRIL 14TH

Until Tuesday 14th April new and lapsed subscribers can save 20% on any 12 month subscription at - but although this offer is only available at the UK site, you don't have to live in the UK to take advantage of the offer.


And provided you use my link and follow the advice here you could also earn yourself a free LostCousins subscription when you buy a 12 month Plus or Pro subscription. So far everyone who followed the advice has qualified!


Tip: existing Findmypast subscribers may be able to take advantage of this offer when upgrading, ie from Plus to Pro - it's certainly worth a try. But the offer definitely isnít available for renewals, though on the other hand Findmypast have long offered a 15% Loyalty Discount for existing subscribers who renew - let's hope they continue to reward loyalty!



Looking forward to 1921: historical information on British businesses

When the 1921 Census is released in 2022 we'll find out who our ancestors' employers were - it'll be an opportunity to discover more detail than ever before about their lives.


Grace's Guide is a not-for-profit project which aims to provide a brief history of the companies, products and people who were instrumental in British industry from the Industrial Revolution onwards.


I found some information on the boiler-making business my grandfather worked for from 1900 to 1947, and for some of the companies I worked for myself in the 1970s. The focus is on manufacturing industry rather than retailing, banking, or other services, but you never know what you might find.


Note: the contract to publish the 1921 England & Wales census was won by Findmypast - if everything goes to plan (and bear in mind that the current pandemic is going to have a long-term impact on many projects), it should be available in January 2022, which is the earliest date that it could be published under the Census Act, 1920.



Living the Poor Life

Dr Gill Draper from the British Association for Local History was due to give a talk at Family History Live next week - but though the show has been cancelled she's making available her slides and notes through the BALH website - you'll find them here.



Unusual census entries

In 2013 I wrote about an entry in the 1851 Census where the relationship of two children to the head of household was given as 'love child', an unusually frank description, though whether it was chosen by the householder or the enumerator is a matter for debate.


I'd quite forgotten about this entry until last week, when Shannon wrote in with another example, this time from the 1891 Census:

© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England

with the permission of Findmypast


At Findmypast you can search most of the censuses by Relationship, so out of interest I search the 1881 Census for '*love child*', which produced 7 results.


Unfortunately I couldn't find a way of carrying out the same search at Ancestry, because the relationship must be selected from a drop-down menu, which doesnít include 'love child' as one of the options. But it wasn't all bad news - entering 'love child' in the Keyword box on the Search form threw up the exquisitely named Love Chambers, who was born in Child Okeford, a picturesque village in north Dorset.


© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England with the permission of Findmypast


Finally an unusual entry from the 1911 Census - it's one of a very small number that show someone who is still alive, in this case Robert Weighton, currently the world's oldest man. And, talking of centenarians, it was lovely to hear the words of Dame Vera Lynn ("We'll meet again") echoed in the Queen broadcast to the nation last Sunday. Let's hope that all three of them continue to make and break records!



Review: Norwich & Norfolk: Stone Age to the Great War

In a normal year my wife and I spend as much time as we can during the warmer months on the Norfolk Broads, so I couldnít resist reading Norwich & Norfolk: Stone Age to the Great War from Stephen Browning (writer) and Daniel Tink (photographer). It's not a family history book, but if you have ancestors from Norfolk it might well be of interest, especially if you plan to spend time in the area researching your roots.


Make sure you have a map by you when reading the book - although there's a one page black and white map of the county at the beginning of the book, it's too small scale, and doesnít show the location of all of the places mentioned. A fold-out map would be more suitable, though in a day and age when many maps are available free online I suspect the publishers would have baulked at the cost.


What I liked most about the book was discovering things I didnít know about some of the towns and villages I'm most familiar worth. Of course, the real test will be to take it with me when I next visit Norfolk - but goodness knows when we'll be permitted to go out of the house simply for leisure purposes!


Although there are many photographs in the book, the only ones that are in colour are the ones on the outside cover; this isnít going to make much difference when youíre on your travels, but it makes the book less visually interesting to the casual reader. There's a comprehensive index at the back, and as you work through the book there are contact details for many of the places of interest.


It's only available as a paperback - there's no Kindle version - but whilst the published price is £14.99, itís currently available at Amazon in the UK for little more than a fiver (with free delivery when you spend £10 or more on books). At that price it's a bargain!†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††



Review: The Magic of German Church Records

I'm very grateful to Jenny Towey, Vice President of the Anglo-German Family History Society for writing the following review:


The Magic of German Church Records: Finding the Key to Your Ancestorís Past by Katherine Schober is a paperback book jam-packed with clear illustrations of original documents and English translations. The author presented a talk on this subject to a RootsTech conference and then expanded the talk into this book.


There are extremely useful appendices: including samples of baptismal, marriage and death records Ė showing both handwritten and printed form versions with translations.Also - Occupations; Numbers; Months; General Vocabulary Found in German Church Records (each consists of three columns Ė German word, English translation, handwritten version).


I canít praise this book enough: it is well written and presented and is bursting with useful information, hints and tips - such as the Streets in Germany website.


After reading Jenny's review I ordered a copy of my own (I have several German lines), and I'm eagerly looking forward to receiving it. If you also want to place an order please use the relevant link below. Note that it is not yet available in Australia.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††



Peter's Tips

In the last newsletter I recommend running (or walking) up and down stairs as a way of getting exercise without venturing outside your front door. Well, on Saturday the BBC revealed that John Griffin, aged 53, has done stair-climbing equivalent to climbing Mount Everest (and coming down again). I donít know whether he's a LostCousins member - it's a common name - but full marks to John anyway!


Two weeks ago King's College, London announced the release of an app to track the symptoms of COVID-19. A new version was released just under a week ago which fixes problems reported by early users and I've downloaded a copy to my smartphone. You can find out more here.


If you want to understand the science of epidemics, this short course produced by the Wellcome Trust which I found on the University of Liverpool website sets out some of the basic facts - it was produced well before the current epidemic.


Here in the UK the press are fixated on the question of when the lockdown will finish so that life can get back to normal. But realistically life isnít likely to get back to normal until either a reliable vaccine is approved and available in sufficiently large quantities, or public opinion accepts that the death of several hundred thousand British people is a price worth paying.


I guess your view on those options is going to depend whether you think you might be one of unlucky ones - personally I'd prefer to wait for the vaccine. In the meantime alternating short periods of lockdown (say 3 weeks at a time) with short periods when people can go to work, shop, and play as normal would be one way to build resilience into the economy without throwing the most vulnerable members of the population under the proverbial bus.


(Of course, this doesnít just apply to the UK - it's unlikely to be significantly different in other democracies in the developed world, whilst in the Third World it could be far worse. What a shame we weren't better prepared for this pandemic, despite all the warnings from the experts!)


Changing the subject - but only slightly - many of the free films at the British Film Institute website are short public information films, such as A-tish-oo from 1941 about the perils of spreading germs by sneezing (it not only recommends the wearing of masks, it demonstrates how you can make your own).


The films are organised into collections such as The Home Front and NHS on Film, which includes a 1948 documentary about the diagnosis and management of polio, still a devastating disease at that time.


But it's not all doom and gloom - a long-forgotten 1933 musical called Britannia of Billingsgate is highly recommended by Will Gompertz, the BBC's film critic (I've yet to watch it). It features a young John Mills - who just a few years before had been working for my 1st cousin twice removed selling toilet paper (though not very successfully). Finally, donít miss the public information film How to Use the Telephone - there are a few people who could learn from it even today! (UPDATE: unfortunately it seems that the BFI films are not viewable outside the UK.)


If you fancy something more highbrow, the Globe theatre is making freely available several Shakespeare productions, but only for a limited period - donít worry, they're not all tragedies! I also understand that many West End theatres are making their productions available, but I havenít had a chance to look into this.



Stop Press

This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......



Lastly, something that has troubled me for a long time but has really come to the fore recently. A number of organisations are using the shutdown to solicit volunteers to transcribe historic documents of one sort or another. A great idea on the face of it, but if youíre a LostCousins member please make sure you put your own cousins first - if you havenít entered all of your relatives from 1881 that should surely be your top priority? After all, almost anyone can transcribe historic records, but only you can enter the information that will connect you to your cousins. Donít they say that charity begins at home?



Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2020 Peter Calver

Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE?