Newsletter – 9th April 2022
LostCousins is COMPLETELY FREE ENDS ST GEORGE’S DAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 25th 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!
LostCousins is COMPLETELY FREE ENDS ST GEORGE’S DAY
Many people think of LostCousins as a newsletter, but it’s so much more than that – the primary purpose of LostCousins is to connect family historians around the world who are researching the same ancestral lines. Not so that you can become friends (though you might), but so that you can collaborate on the ‘brick walls’ that you share.
I’ve always believed that nobody should be prevented from connecting with their ‘lost cousins’ just because they can’t afford it, so LostCousins is focused on censuses that are free – indeed 7 of the 9 censuses we use are free online, including at least one for each country. But that wouldn’t help if it was necessary to purchase a LostCousins subscription to search for cousins, because for some people even £10 a year is beyond their budget.
That’s why it’s ALWAYS FREE to enter relatives from the census on your My Ancestors page, so you can search for living cousins, and – equally importantly – they can find you. It’s ALWAYS FREE to correspond with an existing connection, whether or not you’ve exchanged messages before, and it’s ALWAYS FREE to reply to messages you receive from other members, even if they are new contacts. However if you want to initiate contact with someone new, rather than wait for them to contact you, you normally need a LostCousins subscription – but because I don’t want anyone to be prevented from making connections by lack of funds, each year there are times when the LostCousins site is COMPLETELY FREE.
From now until midnight on St George’s Day (Saturday 23rd April) everyone will be able to initiate a connection with the New contacts shown on their My Cousins page; this applies whether the connections are found during the offer period or have been found in the past.
To take full advantage of this opportunity please make sure that you’ve entered ALL the relatives you can from the 1881 Census, remembering that it doesn’t much matter where your direct ancestors were in 1881, because all of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree. This means that the key relatives to enter are the ones from the branches – your ancestors’ brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins etc.
Tip: a good strategy is to start with all the relatives you can identify in 1841, whether or not you can find them on that census, then track each twig and branch until you get to 1881 (the GRO’s online birth indexes, which include the mother’s maiden name, have made the process so much easier).
Between them, the most prolific 5% of LostCousins members have entered over 5% of ALL the people recorded in the 1881 Census. So if everyone reading this newsletter was to follow their example there would be close to 100% coverage – and what a wonderful resource that would be, not only for family historians, but also for social historians and local historians!
Imagine being able to pick an individual from the 1881 Census at random and connect with a living relative who can tell you what happened to them before and after 1881 – I don’t believe that this can currently be done with any census, anywhere in the world. So if you’re one of the 95% please do what you can – it’s amazing what can be achieved in just half an hour – and if you’re one of the 5%, please encourage others to join and play their part in the project.
I’ve already found some of my cousins in the 1950 US Census, which went online on 1st April – and it’s not a joke for those of us who’ll have to wait another 30 years to see the next England & Wales census. Ancestry & FamilySearch have teamed up to transcribe the census, but the names have already been indexed by the US Archives using handwriting recognition software, and that’s how I was able to find my cousins (it helped that they had German names).
Three identical triplets born to a Cheshire couple celebrated their 1st birthday this week. But are the odds against identical triplets really 200 million to one, as this BBC article suggests? I ask because last April the BBC reported another set of identical triplets, also male, who had been born at Worcestershire Royal Hospital three months earlier. Lauren and Jack Mountain named one of their sons River – but didn’t call the others Deep and High, so I guess they’re not big fans of Tina Turner.
This week it was revealed that two notebooks which belonged to Charles Darwin, and had been missing from Cambridge University since they were last seen 22 years ago, have been recovered – you can read more in this BBC News article.
It got me wondering whether any of the parish registers that have ended up in private hands might one day be deposited in a public archive? The current owners might well be legally entitled to hold on to them, but don’t they have a moral duty to make them more freely available?
I’m hoping that one of these days the missing register(s) for the parish of Althorne in Essex might miraculously turn up – my great-great-great grandmother Sarah Precious was born there in the late 1780s, and according to a 1908 book the registers for Althorne date from 1734, though the earliest entries at Essex Record Office are marriages dating from 1800 and baptisms from 1813.
Note: the book I referred to above is ‘Key to the Ancient Parish Registers of England & Wales’ by Arthur Meredith Burke, which can be downloaded free from the Internet Archive if you follow this link.
Some of you will recall that Jane in Australia - one of nearly 10,000 LostCousins members in that country – was the winner of one of the top prizes in this year’s competition, the chance to knock down a ‘brick wall’ with the help of expert Dr Janet Few. Jane has kindly written about her ‘brick wall’, and how winning the prize inspired her:
I’ve been an avid reader of Peter Calver’s LostCousins newsletter for many years. As regular readers will know, Peter periodically gives us a nudge to add more relatives to our My Ancestors page. Each time I read this, my first thought is ‘So many of my English and Scottish forebears emigrated between 1840 and 1880; I’ve added all I can’. Just as quickly, I think ‘I should take another look; there’s always more to research when it comes to family history’. This past December, with the dangling carrot of some great prizes on offer in Peter’s Christmas competition and some Christmas/New Year long weekends providing research time, I rose to Peter’s challenge, adding dozens of relatives who had previously been omitted.
Among the prizes on offer were ‘brick wall’ busting sessions with renowned genealogists which inspired me to take another look at one of my most frustrating brick walls: the parents of my great-grandfather Henry Davey had been eluding me for decades.
There are no living family members who knew Henry or had inherited any family stories about him. I therefore started with Henry’s marriage and death certificates in Queensland, Australia which indicate that he was born in Wedmore, Somerset to parents Eliza Knight and George Davey, circa 1861-1864. Over the course of 20 years, I searched diligently for a birth record for Henry in England and the marriage of George and Eliza, trying many variations of those names and searching surrounding areas, eliminating possibilities along the way. I located a Henry Davey in the 1871 and 1881 census that matched his age and birthplace, one with a mother Eliza. There was no evidence of father George, or of Eliza and George as a couple.
I reached out to the Weston-super-Mare & District Family History Society and received some excellent assistance (which I didn’t fully follow up on at the time). The WSMDFHS located a record for an Eliza Davy, single woman, giving birth to a son in the Axbridge Workhouse in 1858 as well as a potential christening record for Eliza with parents George and Ann Davey. The 1861 Census has Eliza Davey living with her mother Ann Davey and sons Thomas (age 3 years) and George (age 1 month) in the home of Thomas Knight (is this last name a coincidence or a clue?). In 1873, there was a marriage record for an Eliza Davey marrying Frederick Higgs.
While revisiting this information and following up further thoughts, I received the thrilling news that I had won a ‘brick wall’ session with Janet Few in the Lost Cousins competition!! I redoubled my efforts and focused on preparing a clear and comprehensive summary of my research as background for Janet. In the process, I managed to put some serious cracks in the brick wall prior to meeting with her.
I started by creating a colour-coded diagram to summarise the accumulated information and hypotheses, including clues from Ancestry member trees. This highlighted several key questions that needed to be answered next:
· Were the two Georges born in 1861 the same person?
· What evidence did the tree holder have for George and Thomas being the sons of Eliza’s brother George? And why was Eliza not included in the tree?
· If Eliza did marry Frederick Higgs, what happened to them following their marriage?
Next, I placed orders for several certificates from the General Register Office in the UK to confirm (or refute) some of the suppositions in the diagram. Then I turned my lateral thinking onto the questions. The first two didn’t appear to have a clear path forward. However, in a moment of late-night inspiration (you know, when you turn your laptop back on after you’ve already gone to bed even though it’s after midnight) I did a search against my Ancestry DNA matches for the last name Lock (the married name of Maud M Davey, daughter of George, born 1861). Voila! A very small match (7cM) with AL. AL’s tree contained just seven names. One was the son of Maud Mary Lock (nee Davey). This was a piece of evidence that supported the theory that Eliza Davey, brother of George (b. 1837) is the mother of Henry. Analysing the DNA matches suggested that George Davey (b. 1861), father to Maud et al was more likely to be the son of Eliza (rather than her brother George).
As to what happened to Eliza and Frederick Higgs – it was as if they completely disappeared following their marriage. I couldn’t find them in and around Wedmore or more widely across Somerset and England. The couple did not appear in any online family trees. So I decided to try the ‘cast a wide net’ approach, searching “all categories” in one of the major genealogy databases using only the criteria “Eliza Higgs, born 1839”. Naturally, that returned a vast number of search results. Working my way the list, at about the sixtieth result, I found an Eliza Higgs on a passenger list for a migrant ship to Queensland, Australia! The possibility that she may have emigrated had not occurred to me. The list included Frederick and a son Harry with Eliza arriving in Queensland in 1881. Electoral rolls for Queensland list Eliza Higgs living on the same street as Henry in the Brisbane suburb of Lutwyche, and quite possibly with Henry (street numbers were not listed, so it’s challenging to confirm this). Queensland death indexes include an entry for Eliza Higgs in 1918. Thank goodness for Queensland’s instant delivery of PDFs of historical records (after payment, of course) – I quickly confirmed that the age, place of birth, and parents’ names on the death certificate matched other known details for Eliza (although her father’s surname is shown as Davis rather than Davy or Davey). Most exciting, however, was the inclusion of Henry, age 54 years, as her issue. Other than the 1871 census entry, this was the first document I had found that connected Eliza and Henry as mother and son.
At this point I met with Janet via Zoom. She had thoroughly reviewed my summary and retraced my steps, using her expertise to narrow down a few more things, elicit a few more details and provide additional thoughts on things to follow up. On the whole, however, she agreed with my research and supported my findings that it was reasonably likely that single mother Eliza Dav(e)y was Henry’s mother. I still don’t have a birth record for Henry, but through this series of connections I now have a mother (and maternal grandparents) for Henry. The discovery that she came to Australia and is buried less than 100km from where I live, albeit in an unmarked grave, makes this find that bit more special.
Of course, there are still quite a few loose threads and clues to follow up but this short, very focused period of research significantly loosened a long-immovable brick wall. I’m very grateful to Peter for motivating me (then giving me the gift of my very own genealogist for an hour), and to Janet Few for her expert advice and support. A truly great start to the family history year!
PS: If you’re wondering about Henry’s father, I have got a very strong lead on him now too. But that will need to be a story for another day.
Thank you, Jane, for that wonderful example of how drawing together clues from different sources can help us to uncover the solutions to mysteries that might otherwise have remained unsolved. It’s important to remember that whilst the generations that come after might have better access to historical records, there ability to draw inferences from DNA is likely to be limited, since up to half of the DNA we inherit is lost with each generation.
Ancestry offer student subscriptions in the US
Aristotle wrote “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man”. Ancestry haven’t gone quite as far down the age range with their new Student subscription, but the hope is that by offering discounted rates they’ll develop a new generation of family historians.
It’s a substantial saving for the students who take up the offer – they’ll pay just $4.99 a month for a World Explorer Student Plan compared to the regular price of $39.99 per month. Follow this link to find out more – but please note that this offer is currently only available to students at a U.S. Title IV accredited college or university (verification is performed through SheerID).
The Society of Genealogists is also seeking to encourage the younger generations with a one-day conference for the under-35s on Saturday 7th May (though I wonder how many of those youngsters will be up in time for the 8am start?). If you or someone you know would like to attend you can find out more here. Non-members are welcome.
In the last issue I revealed that as a young child I ate dog biscuits, hiding under an armchair in the hope that I wouldn’t be seen – and now it seems I wasn’t the only one, because Ruth confessed that one of her earliest memories was of sitting in a cupboard eating dog biscuits. Ruth clearly has good taste because she ate the same brand as I did (Spiller’s Shapes).
My mother used to tell me that if I ate dog biscuits I’d get worms, but she never warned me about daffodils. In 2015 Public Health England issued a warning to supermarkets not to display daffodils next to fruit and vegetables in case they were confused with onions or Chinese vegetables; this year St Blaise Town Council in Cornwall was accused of banning daffodils from its parks in case children ate them. There are, of course, plenty of plants that are more dangerous than daffodils, and ironically yesterday evening’s edition of Gardener’s World featured a heritage collection of daffodils in… Cornwall!
From Saturday 9th April until 11.59pm EST on Saturday 23rd April Canadian residents can save $50 on Ancestry DNA, bringing the price down from $129 to just $79 (excluding shipping) – click the banner ad below so that you can support LostCousins when you take advantage of this offer:
Want a reminder of what to do once you’ve taken a DNA test? Check out the latest edition of my Masterclass, which helpfully leaves out all the bits which you don’t really need to know about.
In just over 2 weeks the next book in the Jayne Sinclair series of genealogical mysteries will be out, but I’m fortunate to have been sent a pre-release copy by MJ Lee, the author of this popular series. Book 9 is entitled The Missing Father – a challenge that we family historians are all too familiar with – though in this case it’s not about illegitimacy, so far as I can tell (though as Jayne’s client is just about to get the results of her DNA test anything could happen between now and the end of the book). As ever I’m finding it very enjoyable following Jayne’s researches, which take place just before the pandemic hit and the word COVID hit the headlines, but I’m only half-way through, so must get back to the book.....
I’ll review The Missing Father later this month, but if you can’t wait to pre-order the book please use the relevant link below:
Almost 8% of the people recorded on the 1881 England & Wales census have been entered by at least one LostCousins member on their My Ancestors page, which is why it’s easier than ever before to find ‘lost cousins’.
By a sad coincidence, the same proportion, almost 8% of the people who live in England & Wales would currently test positive for COVID-19 if they took a test – this means that those of us who live here are more likely than ever before to encounter people who are infected.
Even before free tests were ended on 31st March most people weren’t testing, which is why the reported case numbers show that instead of being close to their peak, case numbers are falling fast:
I know which numbers I’d prefer to believe, but sadly I also know which numbers are most likely to be correct. Even more worrying is the way that the virus has spread to the over-70s, an age bracket which includes me and quite a few readers of this newsletter – around 1 in 15 of us are currently infected, the highest proportion ever, and 6 times more than at any time before last Christmas.
Is it because (as a group) we’re taking fewer precautions, or is it because our immunity is waning? I suspect it’s a bit of each: I had my booster 6 months ago today, but today I’m probably no better protected against infection than those who’ve had no vaccinations at all (though hopefully I still have some protection against serious illness).
Over 75s will get their 4th dose soon, but there are no plans to protect those of us who are a few years younger. I shall continue to be very cautious, though as you’ll from the next article I did venture out earlier in the week….
I was woken just after half-past 6 yesterday morning by a text from the NHS advising me to take a COVID test after coming into close contact with someone who had contracted the Omicron variant. It was the first time I’d ever received such a notification, but as I was the one who had booked the table for our pub meal on Monday – the first time I’d eaten out this year – it was hardly surprising that I would be the one to be contacted.
Fortunately I didn’t click the link in the text – who knows what might have happened in my drowsy state.
By the time I’d dealt with the emails that had come in overnight, and cooked breakfast in bed for my wife, I was sufficiently wide awake to take another look – and quickly realised that it was a scam. Although the letters ‘nhs’ appeared at the start and end of the link, providing a veneer of plausibility, the bit in the middle was clearly bogus – so I forwarded the text to 7726 (Action Fraud).
There are examples of several different types of COVID-related scam in this PDF document on the NHS Counter Fraud Authority website, a resource I hadn’t come across before, perhaps because the primary focus in on fighting fraud within the National Health Service.
Most scams depend not just on the gullibility of the victim, but also on coincidence. For example, in this case I’d been out for a meal at a time when 1 person in 13 has COVID, so it wouldn’t be surprising if someone in the pub at the same time as me had subsequently tested positive. Similarly a spam phone call which asked about our loft insulation upgrade seemed initially plausible – like so many we upgraded our loft insulation a couple of years ago – but they called on my landline which is registered with the Telephone Preference Service, so I knew from the outset that it was a scam, and proceeded accordingly. Hopefully the person who called will have taken my advice and got themselves an honest job by now, though perhaps that’s wishful thinking.
I try to put as little in my recycling bin as possible – not because I don’t believe in recycling, but because reusing containers and bags myself is likely to be even better for the environment. No plastics are infinitely recyclable – and some aren’t recyclable at all – so if I can reuse an item myself the environment is likely to benefit.
For example, I often use a plastic bag when I might once have used clingfilm – typically in a situation in which there is no contact between the food and the bag so that it remains clean and can be reused without washing. Similarly I wash aluminium trays and reuse them as many times as I can – saving on foil which can’t be cleaned nearly as easily.
Talking of food, I was surprised by some of the comments in this BBC article about the display of calorie counts on menus in larger restaurants – apparently some chefs think it will constrain their creativity! An alternative (and arguably more realistic) view is that it will encourage them to be more creative, just as you and I are when we’re cooking on a limited budget and have a restricted range of ingredients in our store cupboard.
An ingredient that isn’t in my store cupboard, but is frequently used in my cooking, is rosemary – in our kitchen garden we have several bushes which began as cuttings that we took when my mother-in-law went into a care home (her flat was sold to pay the fees). I’ve discovered that it’s a great way to turn a cheap beef steak (2 for £3.19 at Tesco) into a delicious meal without adding a single calorie – just place a sprig or two under the steak as you fry it. Mmmm!
The words “Rosemary, Rosemary” begin a song in the 1967 film How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (the song’s probably in the stage version as well, but I’m too young to have seen that). Have a listen to the song here, on YouTube – remind you of anything? The answer can be found in the comments – let’s just say that it’s a topical subject.
“Rosemary” is sung by Robert Morse who I didn’t see act again until 40 years later, when he played Bertram Cooper in Mad Men, which is (in my opinion) one of the best television drama series ever made, certainly if you exclude anything based on novels by George Eliot or Anthony Trollope. Talking of Trollope, my wife and I are currently watching The Pallisers for the first time; originally broadcast by the BBC in 1974, it was reshown for the 40th anniversary in 2014 (and that’s when I recorded it).
How come I didn’t watch it in 1974 – I was too busy trying in business without really succeeding!
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......
I’ll be back before Easter with more news and tips - in the meantime please play your part in the the LostCousins project. After all, it’s you and your cousins who stand to benefit!
© Copyright 2022 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?
Many of the links in this newsletter and elsewhere on the website are affiliate links – if you make a purchase after clicking a link you may be supporting LostCousins (though this depends on your choice of browser, the settings in your browser, and any browser extensions that are installed). Thanks for your support!