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Newsletter – 13th April 2023



Hampshire parish registers online at Ancestry BREAKING NEWS

Suffolk parish registers to go online in 2025

Findmypast to allow tree sharing

Instant census searches

Easter with the Adams family

MASTERCLASS: finding birth certificates in England & Wales

Scottish BMD registers “the envy of the world”

Duplicated effort

Protecting historic cemeteries

Fun Y-facts?

Looking forward to the Coronation

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 28th 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!



Hampshire parish registers online at Ancestry BREAKING NEWS

Four years ago I revealed that Hampshire parish registers were (briefly) online at FamilySearch – but even before my newsletter went to press they had vanished, with access restricted to LDS Family History Centres and affiliated libraries.


Then, two years ago Ancestry contracted to put the Hampshire registers online, and the first tranche of more than 1.5 million baptism entries are now on the Ancestry site (the examples I looked at had been scanned in colour, which is always a bonus):


Hampshire, England, Church of England Baptisms 1813-1921


I suspect that the remainder of the registers will go online before the end of the year, but I cannot confirm this at the current time.


Please note that Southampton and Portsmouth parishes are not included in the Ancestry collection – the Southampton registers are held at Southampton Archives (see the PDF list of holdings here) – whilst Portsmouth parish registers are online at Findmypast.


Tip: there are over 3 million transcribed entries from Hampshire at Findmypast to keep you busy while  you’re waiting for Ancestry.



Suffolk parish registers to go online

20 years ago I spent much of my free time in record offices – mainly the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies in Hertford, Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, and the West Suffolk branch of Suffolk Archives in Bury St Edmunds.


In those days there were no parish registers online, and even though many entries had been transcribed the coverage was patchy. Around 15 years ago Essex began putting their registers online (though the entries within them were unindexed), then Ancestry and Findmypast took up the challenge, and within 5 years London (Ancestry) and Hertfordshire (Findmypast) parish registers were not only online but indexed.


Four years ago Ancestry added indexes to the Essex registers (though the images are still only accessible through Essex Archives), but Suffolk County Council had still not decided what to do – they were still toying with the idea of emulating what Essex had done when the pandemic hit.


Last month Ancestry finally won the right to digitise Suffolk parish registers and other records, and according to my contact at Suffolk County Council they should be online by 2025. Ancestry have exclusive rights until 2029.


There was another piece of good news about Suffolk Archives recently – it now seems virtually certain that the West Suffolk branch in Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds will not be closing (as had been feared) but relocating to a new premises on Western Avenue. You can read more about the decision here, in the minutes of the council meeting held on 21st February.


Tip: if you don’t want to wait until 2025, you’ll be pleased to hear that volunteers from Suffolk Family History Society have transcribed millions of register entries, and the collection is expanding all the time. Some of the transcribed records are at Findmypast, but most are only available on CD ROMs or in digital downloads from the Suffolk FHS shop.



Findmypast to allow tree sharing

Last week Findmypast introduced tree sharing, something that they’ve been reticent to offer in the past. I haven’t had a chance to check it out myself, but here’s what Findmypast told me:


There are two ways to share your family tree with friends and family when logged in to your Findmypast account.


If you want to share with selected individuals, simply generate a unique link for each person as needed and share this to grant them access. Alternatively, you can generate a temporary link which expires after seven days to share with as many people as you like.


Those with a link will be able to see all deceased people in your family tree and view facts about those deceased people. They will not be able to see any information about living people, photos, or media, regardless of whether you’ve marked them as private or public in your tree settings. They will not be able to make any edits to your tree.


You can edit access permissions for any link that you’ve shared, adding or removing the ability to see people marked as living in your tree, and revoke access entirely via the tree settings page, under sharing settings.



Instant census searches

There are three key features that set LostCousins apart from most other genealogy sites: automation, privacy, and accuracy.


Automation means that you can repeat ALL of the searches you’ve ever carried out by pressing ONE button – there’s no need to re-enter anything, because your search criteria are permanently recorded on the My Ancestors page.


Privacy wasn’t a major concern for most people when I founded LostCousins in 2004, but these days we’re all far more conscious of the need to keep personal information away from prying eyes – so I’m glad it was something that was built-into the system from the beginning. At LostCousins nobody can see your entries, even after you’ve been matched, nor can they see your name unless you agree to correspond with them. Furthermore, even if you do agree to correspond with another member they won’t find out your email address unless both of you agree to exchange addresses.


Accuracy is crucial because we’re all so busy these days that we can’t afford to spend time figuring out whether someone we’ve encountered online really is a cousin of ours. Over the past 19 years the LostCousins matching technology has proven to be 100% accurate – the very few mismatches have been the result of someone identifying the wrong individual on the census, a mistake anyone could make if the surname is a common one.


Let’s talk some more about accuracy…. whilst the chance of a false match is negligible, there is a small possibility of a genuine match being missed because some of the data entered doesn’t match the census. That’s why some years ago I added a ‘checking arrow’ alongside most entries on your My Ancestors page – clicking the grey arrow instantly carries out a census search so that you can review the information and make changes or additions.


Tip: when you add a new household from any of the England & Wales censuses to your My Ancestors page you can use the arrow to confirm that you’ve entered the correct references.


I’ve now taken this a stage further for the England & Wales 1881 census. The ‘gold standard’ for this census is the LDS transcription, which for many years was available at all of the major sites – but in recent years Findmypast have used a slightly modified transcription, and it has been modified further as a result of users submitting corrections to them. The England & Wales censuses at FamilySearch have all been sourced from Findmypast, so the only site which still has the unmodified LDS transcription for the 1881 Census is Ancestry.


Note: whilst Ancestry also accept corrections from users, they retain the original version.


In an ideal world the grey arrows for the England & Wales 1881 census would link to Ancestry, but this would be very difficult to achieve because Ancestry have split this census into four: England, Wales, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands. Although they do have a search which includes all of those territories (plus Scotland) there are no boxes on the search form for the references which identify a specific census page.


Where there is a difference in the 1881 entries at Findmypast and Ancestry it almost always relates to the names. For example, looking at the entries for my 2nd cousin three times removed Thomas C Smith I noticed that whereas the LDS transcription correctly shows his first name as ‘Thos’, the Findmypast transcription has ‘Thomas’. Discrepancies like this rarely result in a match being missed completely – usually a red exclamation mark flags up the entry for checking, as in this case:



To view what you’ve entered for a relative just click their name on your My Ancestors page – this will take you to the Edit Ancestor form:



The good news is that there are some new buttons on this page:


·      the Findmypast button which will search the England & Wales 1881 census using the references you have entered

·      two Ancestry buttons, one for the England census, and one for the Wales census - again they'll search using the census references


When you click any of those buttons the search results will appear in a new browser tab – it’s quick and easy to establish from the Ancestry results that the correct version of the name is Thos C Smith, so I can click the Confirm button at the bottom of the page – this will remove the red exclamation mark.


Incidentally I can also see that it’s very likely my cousin took his information from Findmypast, and as we have successfully matched on two other members of the household (the ones with a blue tick) I can send him a message suggesting that he might want to review his own entry for Thomas.


Note: his entry would also have been marked with a red exclamation mark, but if he checked against Findmypast he might have well have confirmed his entry as correct.


You don’t need to go to your LostCousins account to try out the new buttons – you can use the ones below:




Tip: whilst you DON’T need a subscription to either site, because the 1881 transcripts are free, you WILL need to log-in



Easter with the Adams family

As Easter approached I decided to look at children whose parents named them ’Easter’. I anticipated that, given the timing of Easter, almost all of the births would be registered in the second quarter of the year, but this proved not to be the case – in fact, barely 60% were.


Near the top of the list were two girls whose births were registered in South Shields in 1915: both were shown as Easter C Adams in the original quarterly indexes, but referring to the modern GRO birth index I found that in each case their middle name was ‘Catherine’:


My first thought was that given how unusual the name was there must be a possibility that both entries referred to the same child, and that somehow the wrong maiden name had been shown for the mother when it was first registered.


This proved not to be the case, as you can see:



The biggest surprise was that neither birth occurred around Easter – indeed, one of the girls was born 4 days before Christmas, which surely would have inspired a different choice of name? Both of the fathers were rivetters by trade, so I suspected that they were brothers or cousins, and this was confirmed by the 1891 Census:


© The National Archives. All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Findmypast


There was another Easter Catherine Adams whose birth was registered in South Shields in the early years of the 20th century:



The mother’s maiden name was sufficiently rare that it was possible to identify the parents’ marriage with confidence: this revealed that the father was John Hedley Adams, another member of the same family. But this birth was registered in the third quarter of 1902, so again the name couldn’t have been chosen because of the timing – so I decided to look for other ‘Easter’ births in South Shields, and this entry caught my eye:



Not only was the mother’s maiden name Adams, the birth had been registered in the 2nd quarter of the year. I decided to take a closer look:



Jane Isabella Lawrence, née Adams, was the eldest daughter of Thomas and Catherine – and her baby was born just over a week before Easter. So was this the origin of the name within the Adams family? It certainly seemed likely, until I looked up the marriage of Thomas Adams and Catherine Moon – it turned out that she had married as ‘Esther Catherine’, though her birth had been registered as ‘Catherine’:



Catherine Moon was born on 12th April 1847, 8 days after Easter – but she would have celebrated her 5th birthday on Easter Monday, 1852 and her 10th birthday on Easter Sunday 1857. Is it possible that she was nicknamed ‘Easter’ by her family, and used that name when she married?


Perhaps there’s somebody from her family reading this who can provide a definitive answer?



MASTERCLASS: finding birth certificates in England & Wales

It's very frustrating when we can't find an ancestor's birth certificate - but often the 'brick wall' only exists because we've trusted the information in the records that we have found. Let's look at some of the key reasons why a certificate can't be found....


·        The forename you know your ancestor by may not be the one on the birth certificate
Sometimes the name(s) given at the time of baptism would differ from the name(s) given to the registrar of births; sometimes a middle name was preferred, perhaps to avoid confusion with another family member, often the father. Although it was possible to amend a birth register entry to reflect a change of name at baptism, most people seem not to have bothered.

There can be all sorts of reasons why a different forename is used - one of my ancestors appears on some censuses as 'Ebenezer' and on others as 'John' (which I imagine was the name he was generally known by). In another family the children (and there were lots of them) were all known by their middle names. Similarly, one of my relatives was registered as Fred, but in 1911 his own father - my great-grandfather - gave his name as Frederick.

·        Middle names come and go
At the beginning of the 19th century it was rare to have a middle name, but by the beginning of the 20th century it was unusual not to have one. Some people invented middle names, some people dropped middle names they didn't like, and sometimes people simply forgot what was on the birth certificate.

Sometimes they switched their names around for a reason:  one of my distant cousins swapped his first and middle name when he married for the second time, and as his second marriage was only two years after the first, I suspect it was bigamous.  

·        The surname on the certificate may not be the one you expect
If the parents weren't married at the time of the birth then usually (but not always) the birth will be indexed under the mother's maiden name; the main exception is where the mother was using the father's surname and failed to disclose to the registrar that they weren't married. In the early days of civil registration some illegitimate births were indexed under the surnames of both parents (the examples I've seen are mostly from the 1840s), but this anomaly was corrected when the GRO recompiled the indexes in the 21st century.

Surname spellings were not fixed in the 19th century, and some continued to change in the 20th century. For example, the spelling of my grandmother's surname changed between her birth in 1894 and her marriage in 1915 and it wasn’t an error, because everyone in her branch changed the spelling. Many surnames of foreign origin changed around the time of the First World War - even the Royal Family changed their name.

·        You're looking for the wrong father
Often the best clue you have to the identity of your ancestor's father is the information on his or her marriage certificate. Unfortunately marriage certificates are often incorrect - the father's name and/or occupation may well be wrong. This is particularly likely if your ancestor never knew his or her father, whether as a result of early death or illegitimacy. Not many people admit to being illegitimate on their wedding day - and in Victorian Britain illegitimacy was frowned upon, so single mothers often made up stories to tell their children (as well as the neighbours).

If the groom's name is the same as the name given for his father you should be especially wary - when you're struggling to find a birth it is a strong hint that the father isn’t who the marriage register says he is. However it might only be the surname that's wrong - illegitimate sons were often named after their putative father.

Whether or not the birth was legitimate young children often took the name of the man their mother later married, so always bear in mind the possibility that the father whose name is shown on the marriage certificate is actually a step-father.

·        You may be looking in the wrong place
A child's birthplace is likely to be shown correctly when he or she is living at home (few mothers are going to forget where they were when they gave birth!), but could well be incorrect after leaving home. Many people simply didn't know where they were born, and assumed it was the place where they remembered growing up. So the most accurate birthplace is the one given by the father or (especially) the mother of the person whose birth you're trying to track down; the least accurate is likely to be the one in the first census after they leave home.

Enumerators also made mistakes, and sometimes added extra information that makes it even more confusing. For example, my great-great-great grandmother was born in Lee, Kent but the 1851 Census shows her as born in Leith, Scotland - clearly the enumerator could have misheard 'Lee' as 'Leith', but he wouldn't have mistaken 'Kent' for 'Scotland', so he must have added that bit himself. Her father was shown on the same census (but by a different enumerator) as born in Hatcham, Surrey – which was nearby. In fact he was born in Fetcham, Surrey which was much further away – the enumerator might not even have heard the name before. Both of them were born before civil registration began, but the enumerators' errors would have been just as confusing had they been born after 1837.

Another common error made by enumerators was to switch the birthplaces of the head of household and his wife. This probably happened when copying them from the household schedule to the summary book – remember that prior to 1911 we don't get to see the schedules filled in by householders..

·        You may be looking in the wrong period
Ages on censuses are often wrong, as are the ages shown on marriage certificates - especially if there is an age gap between the parties, or one or both is below the age of consent (21). Sometimes people didn't know how old they were, or knew which year they were born but bungled the subtraction; ages on death certificates can be little more than guesses, or may be based on an incorrect age shown on the deceased's marriage certificate. Remember too that births could be registered up to 42 days afterwards without penalty, so many will be recorded in the following quarter - and they could be registered up to 365 days afterwards on payment of a fine. Some births were re-registered years later after the parents married.

In my experience, where a marriage certificate shows 'of full age' it's often an indication that in reality at least one of them was under 21. It was only very recently that vicars were given the power to require evidence of age and identity.

·        The birth was not registered at all
This is the least likely situation, but it did happen occasionally - most often in the first few years of registration, though it wasn't until 1875 that there was a penalty for failing to register a birth. However, to be absolutely certain that a birth wasn't registered you would need to have almost as much information as would be shown on a birth certificate – so for practical purposes it's a possibility that is best ignored until all other paths have been thoroughly investigated.

·        The GRO indexes are wrong
This is also quite rare, but did happen occasionally - despite the checks that were carried out. Fortunately the indexes that the GRO made available on their website in November 2016 were compiled from scratch, so most indexing errors will have been eliminated (although inevitably some new ones were introduced).

·        The GRO indexes have been mistranscribed
Transcription errors can prevent you finding the entry you’re looking for, so make use of indexes at other sites.


How can you overcome these problems? First and foremost keep an open mind - be prepared to accept that any or all of the information you already have may be wrong. This is particularly likely if you have been unable to find your relative at home with their parents on any of the censuses.


Obtain all the information that you can from censuses, certificates, baptism entries and other sources (such as Army records). The GRO's new birth indexes show the mother's maiden name from the start of civil registration - the contemporary indexes only include this information from July 1911 onwards. And don’t assume that the same information will be shown in the baptism register as in the birth register - if the birth was registered before the baptism the forenames could be different. (Whilst it was possible to update the birth entry following the baptism - hence the final column on birth certificates - this rarely happened.)


Don't stick to one site just because you have a subscription

Almost all of the sites that have indexed the quarterly birth indexes have done so independently, so entries that have been incorrectly transcribed at one site may well be correctly transcribed at other sites. Make use of free searches – even subscription sites allow free searches (though you may have to register first)


Note: the indexes at Ancestry for the period up to 1915 were provided by FreeBMD, so you’re likely to get the same results from both sites, although FreeBMD's indexes include some corrections that aren't reflected in the Ancestry database. Similarly the indexes at FamilySearch are provided by Findmypast.


The GRO's online index of historic births is completely free, though the search options are very limited, with very poor fuzzy-matching. Furthermore, although maiden names are included from 1837 onwards you can’t search on maiden name only. Findmypast offers much better search options, and you probably won’t need a subscription because a free search provides a lot of information. Although maiden names currently aren't recorded for every birth between 1837-1911, the fact that at Findmypast you can search by maiden name alone is incredibly useful.


Note: the way in which the new birth indexes have been compiled by the GRO differs from the procedure followed when the original quarterly indexes were created. See this article for an explanation of the differences, and the implications thereof.   


When you can't find someone living with their parents on the censuses…..

The less information you can find, the more likely it is that the little you already have is incorrect or misleading in some way. Consider how and why the information you have might be wrong by working your way through the list above - then come up with a strategy to deal with each possibility. Sometimes it's as easy as looking up the index entry for a sibling to find out the mother's maiden name; often discovering when the parents married is a vital clue (but don't believe what it says on the 1911 Census - the years of marriage shown may have been adjusted for the sake of propriety).


If you can't find your ancestor on any census with his or her parents then you should be particularly suspicious of the information you have - it's very likely that some element is wrong, and it is quite conceivable that it is ALL wrong. Tempting as it is to hold on to clues when you have so few of them, sometimes you can only succeed by letting go, and starting from scratch.


Middle names that could also be surnames often indicate illegitimacy - it was usually the only way to get the father's name onto the birth certificate. And if your ancestor has an unusual middle name, try searching for other birth registrations which include the same name.


Official records are often wrong

Don't assume that just because something appears in an official document, it must be right. Around half of the 19th century marriage certificates I've seen included at least one error, and as many as half of all census entries are also wrong in some respect (I'm not talking about transcription errors, by the way). Army records are particularly unreliable - one of my relatives added 2 years to his age when he joined the British Army in 1880, and knocked 7 years off when he signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914.


Some people really were named Tom, Dick, or Harry but over-eager record-keepers might assume that they were actually Thomas, Richard and Henry. My grandfather was Harry, but according to his army records he was Henry (just as well he had two other forenames - which were recorded correctly - otherwise I might never have found him).


Births were registered locally, and some local indexes are online 

If you are absolutely convinced that you know when and where your ancestors was born, you could try ordering their birth certificate from the local register office. But first make use of local BMD indexes where they exist (start at UKBMD), and don't forget to look for your ancestor's baptism - sometimes we forget that parents continued to have their children baptised after Civil Registration began, but as more and more parish registers, Catholic registers, and non-conformist records become available online they are increasingly important sources.


Consider the possibility that one or both of the parents died when your ancestor was young - perhaps there will be evidence in workhouse records. Have you looked for wills?


Marriage witnesses and signatures on marriage certificates can be valuable clues

Could the witnesses to your ancestor's marriage be relatives? When my great-great-great grandfather Joseph Harrison married, one of the witnesses was a Sarah Salter - and I later discovered (after many years of fruitless searching) that this was the name of his mother. Her maiden name wasn't Salter, by the way - nor was it Harrison - and it was only because the Salter name stuck in my mind that I managed to knock down the 'brick wall'.


Another marriage witness with a surname I didn't recognise proved invaluable when I was struggling with my Smith line - he turned up as a lodger in the census, helping to prove that I was looking at the same family on two successive censuses, even though the names and ages of the children didn't tally, and the father had morphed from a carpenter to a rag merchant.


Do your cousins have the answer?

Remember that you're probably not the only one researching this particular ancestor - and one of your cousins may already have the answers you're seeking. Someone who has approached the problem from a different direction will have collected different clues, and might well have solved the mystery through routine research. Indeed, they might never have seen it as a mystery – perhaps they inherited the family Bible, a handwritten family tree, or even the original birth certificate? So make sure that you have entered ALL your relatives from 1881 on your My Ancestors page, as this is the census that is most likely to link you to your 'lost cousins' – and remember that because your cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, the best way to find them is to enter the relatives from the twigs and branches of your tree.


Will the certificate be correct when you eventually find it?

Finally, remember that even when you find the birth certificate the information shown might not be correct; for example, if the child is the youngest in a large family, consider the possibility that the mother shown on the certificate was actually the child's grandmother (see this article for an example).


When a birth was registered by one parent the name of the other parent could only be recorded in the register if the parents were married (or claimed to be married); as a result some births registered by the mother named the wrong father, and (more rarely) some births registered by the father named the wrong mother. You can see another example of a birth certificate which names the wrong mother here.


Note: although this Masterclass relates to England & Wales it’s likely that much of the advice will also apply to searches in other parts of the British Isles, and in other countries around the world.



Scottish BMD registers “the envy of the world”

National Records of Scotland (NRS) was formed 12 years ago when the General Register Office for Scotland merged with the National Archives of Scotland – so it’s perhaps not surprising that on their website they write that “Scotland’s registers of births, deaths and marriages are the envy of the world”.


If you research is largely confined to England & Wales you might well be surprised to discover how much more detailed the information is on Scottish certificates – for example, mothers’ names have been shown in the marriage registers since 1855, when civil registration began in Scotland, whereas England & Wales registers only included this information from May 2021, 166 years later!


Follow the links on this page to see what information was routinely included in the birth, marriage, and death registers – you might indeed be envious!


Mind you, not all Scottish registrars were as diligent as they should have been – this article on the NRS site demonstrates how, in 1880, one part-timer was criticised for his sloppy records. His excuse? He’d got married!



Duplicated effort

I read recently about a company that plans to install computers in homes to provide heating and hot water, a suggestion that sounds quite ludicrous until you realise that the only difference between a computer and an electric heater is that a computer does something useful with the electrons before they end up as heat.


In fact it isn’t a new idea – back in June 2011 researchers from Microsoft and the University of Virginia presented a paper making the same suggestion at a cloud computing conference  (you can read a report on their presentation here). And on the other side of Atlantic yours truly had come up with the same idea some months earlier – though in the circumstances it’s probably just as well that I decided to focus on LostCousins.


It's not unusual for people to come up with similar ideas, just as it’s not unusual for family historians to view the same records – indeed, that’s what gave me the idea for LostCousins back in 2003. In those days the 1881 Census was the only one that was easily accessible, and it struck me that if I only I knew who else was looking at the same entries we could collaborate on future research.


These days it’s even more important for family historians with common interests to collaborate – whilst there are many more records online, we’re up against more ‘brick walls’ than ever before. 20 years ago I had about 10 ‘brick walls’ that were holding me back – now I have well over 100, far more than I could possibly deal with even if I was able to devote all of my time to research.


You may not have as many ‘brick walls’ as I do, but I can guarantee that nobody reading this has fewer ‘brick walls’ in their family tree than they did 20 years ago – that’s because behind every ‘brick wall’ there are always at least two others waiting to block our path!


When we have so much on our plates, going it alone really  isn’t a viable strategy – connecting with our ‘lost cousins’ so that we can collaborate on the ‘brick walls’ that we share makes perfect sense, especially when we’re already pressed for time. Ironically members who haven’t completed their My Ancestors page tell me it’s because they have such limited time to research their tree – but isn’t that a bit like saying you haven’t got the time to find someone to fix your washing machine because you’re so busy washing your clothes by hand?


Always remember that LostCousins is here to SAVE you time by connecting you with the experienced family historians who are researching some of your ancestors (the ones who are also their ancestors). Why do everything yourself when you could share the workload with people who are just as keen as you are to knock down your ‘brick walls’?


Tip: occasionally you’ll connect with a cousin who has already knocked down one of your ‘brick walls’ – not because they’re smarter or more experienced than you, but because they started with different information. When that happens it’s a bonus!



Protecting historic cemeteries

Readers of this newsletter were as shocked as I was to read about the desecration of the graveyard of Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate (in east London). We all know that what happened was wrong, but how should disused burial grounds be managed? I subsequently found some helpful guidance on the Historic England website under the heading Management of Historic Cemeteries.


Note: Historic England was formerly known as English Heritage – in 2015 the organisation was split into two, with Historic England taking on the statutory and protection role, and the English Heritage Trust shouldering responsibility for the management of the historic properties.


For even more detailed advice see the Guide for Burial Ground Managers issued by the Department of Constitutional Affairs in 2005 – it is in PDF format, and can be downloaded here. I wonder who will be the first family historian to get permission to exhume an ancestor for the purpose of taking a DNA sample?  



Fun Y-facts?

The Y-chromosome is passed unchanged from fathers to their sons, so it has the potential to reach back hundreds or thousands of years to identify people who share a common patrilineal ancestor.


The recent recovery of Beethoven’s DNA from locks of hair has prompted increased interest in distant connections to historic figures. According to FamilyTreeDNA my 3rd cousin is related to Beethoven, which means that I am too, through my maternal grandfather – though as the connection is estimated to date back 4600 years it could hardly be classed as a close relationship (perhaps that’s why my piano lessons were such an abject failure).


On my father’s side I’m apparently related to Bill Gates – which might explain why we both founded software companies in the 1970s, though not why his company (Microsoft) was just a teeny weeny bit more successful than mine (Supersoft). Perhaps the fact that our common ancestor lived 17000 years might have something to so with that….


But I only have to go back 4400 years to my common ancestor with Crick and Watson, the discoverers of DNA, as well as Craig Venter, who played a major role in the sequencing of the first human genome. That particular connection, by the way, is through my father’s mother’s mother’s father.


These factoids might be fun, but they’re of little or no consequence to serious family historians – partly because connections that pre-date historical records and even surnames are of doubtful practical value, but also because it has been calculated that EVERYONE with Western European ancestry shares a common ancestor as recently as 1000 years ago. On similar lines, it has been theorised that most British people alive today are descended from William the Conqueror – though, of course, only a few can show how they’re descended from him (and even that may depend on late medieval pedigrees of questionable accuracy).


Go back 5000 years and it’s possible that everyone alive today is descended from everyone who was alive then who has living descendants! You can find out more on this page from the ISOGG website.


Note: talking about ancestors, one of my great-great-great grandfathers was born in Salcombe, Devon – which has just been named the most expensive seaside town in the UK (according to this BBC article). But my ancestor was born into a poor fishing family and though he headed off to London, it was to work as a dock labourer – he died in his 40s.



Looking forward to the Coronation

In just over three weeks King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey, and to celebrate this momentous occasion LostCousins will be COMPLETELY FREE from Monday 1st May, the 19th birthday of LostCousins, until midnight on Tuesday 9th May.


(In case you’ve forgotten, Coronation Day is Saturday 6th May – it’s easy for me to remember because it would have been my father’s 107th birthday.)


The 9 days of the offer represent a great opportunity for existing members to connect with their ‘lost cousins’, but it’s also a good time to invite new members to join.


Remember, the best way to make connections is through the 1881 Census – and this applies whether your ‘brick walls’ are in the 17th century (like most of mine), or more recent. Start entering relatives now, and you’ll be ready to make those connections when the offer starts.


Tip: if you have any questions it’s best not to wait until the offer has started – I’m likely to be very busy then (though not because I’ve been invited to the Coronation – unlike some of you).



Peter’s Tips

I read yesterday that some of the major supermarkets are cutting the price of milk, and whilst it’ll still be considerably more expensive than a year ago, at least it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully this week’s decision to allow chickens back outside will help to reduce the price of eggs, another staple food item.


There’s also the possibility of falling energy prices later this year, thanks partly to the efforts we have all made to reduce demand (the milder winter in Europe also helped). It might seem unlikely now, but last month’s revised forecast from the Office of Budget Responsibility suggests that the rate of inflation will fall below 2% next year.


Do you remember Tupperware? Back in the 1960s Tupperware parties were all the rage, but now the company may go out of business according to a news article I read. Other memories of my youth include the man who went door to door with a suitcase full of brushes (made by Addis, if I remember rightly), and ‘the man from the Pru’ who came round once a month to collect the premiums.


Earlier this month it was the 50th anniversary of the first mobile phone call – you can see a picture of the phone the inventor used here. When I bought my first mobile phone in 1989 it cost me £759 – over £2000 in today’s money – and all I could do with it was make phone calls! How times have changed…..


After 3 difficult years life is back to normal for many, but my wife and I are still being cautious when we leave home – wearing masks whenever we’re indoors, and taking care to avoid unnecessary close contact with others even when we’re outdoors. Some people might think we’re a bit strange, but at least we’ve stayed healthy.


If you are going to wear a mask it makes sense to choose one that actually works! I recently came across a spreadsheet which compares the effectiveness of hundreds of different types of mask – you can download it here. According to the spreadsheet the masks we wear (AirPop Pocket) are 96.93% effective at filtering out small particles in the air, which makes them about 15 times better than the sort of masks handed out at doctors’ surgeries, but there are many on the list which are even more efficient. Do you have a particular recommendation that you would like to share?



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I’ll be back soon with more news from the world of genealogy: in the meantime please keep adding relatives from 1881 to your My Ancestors page – it’ll not only benefit you, it’ll also help your cousins.


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver


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