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Newsletter – 11th April 2024



Looking back over two decades

New CEO for The National Archives

Correspondence from the past: Home Children write home

Recreating the woolly mammoth

Neanderthals live on

Reconstructing your ancestor’s DNA

Double identity

Some unexpected discoveries

History of the Royal Marines 1837-1914 FREE DOWNLOAD

Don’t be misled by the GRO birth indexes

British man is oldest in the world

Save on Ancestry DNA UK ONLY - ENDS SUNDAY

National Pet Day TODAY!

Save on Who Do You Think You Are? magazine EXCLUSIVE OFFER

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 29th 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!



Looking back over two decades

We’re just 3 weeks away from our 20th birthday! LostCousins launched on Saturday 1st May 2004, and if you visited the Society of Genealogists Annual Fair which took place that weekend at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London, I might well have handed you one of these leaflets as you stood in line:




The timing of the launch couldn’t have been better – less than six months later Who Do You Think You Are? burst onto our TV screens, and suddenly family history was in the news!


On 12th October, when the very first episode was broadcast, there were just 2525 LostCousins members, but by the end of October there were 3504, and at the end of December the membership had increased to 7182. It doesn’t sound many – nowadays there are 10 times as many researchers on my mailing list – however in those days the website wasn’t nearly as user-friendly as it is today, so there were many more queries to deal with, and I was already working 60 hour weeks even though I didn’t have a regular newsletter to research and write.


I also spent a lot of time helping members with their research – you have to remember that until 2008 there were no parish registers online, so we were dependent on visiting record offices if we could, and trawling the IGI. In those early days some of the censuses which we take for granted today were only available on microfilm. For example, the 1851 England & Wales census wasn’t launched online until late 2005:



It was a very exclusive event – there were just a few dozen people there – so I was able to have long chats with Tony Robinson, the celebrity guest, and the late great Audrey Collins (who wrote the official history of the censuses, and subsequently became a LostCousins member).



New CEO for The National Archives

One person I didn’t get to speak to at the launch of the 1851 Census in 2005 was Natalie Ceeney, then the newly-appointed Chief Executive of The National Archives (a role she held until 2010).


The National Archives has this week announced the appointment of another new Chief Executive, Saul Nassé – who might be coming to the job 19 years later, but was actually born 6 years before Ms Ceeney.


I don’t know anything about Mr Nassé beyond what it says on his Wikipedia page (which hadn’t, at the time of writing, been updated to reflect his new role), but I certainly admire his taste in shirts! I was also interested to read a prescient blog post that he wrote in November 2019, just as the world as about to be hit by a pandemic, outlining the many advantages of flexible working.



Correspondence from the past: Home Children write home

I’ve written about British Home Children on several occasions in the past, so I was fascinated to learn that LostCousins member Martin had transcribed the surviving letters from a seven-year correspondence involving members of his family who, after their parents died, had been put into a home, then sent overseas.


Martin has very kindly given me permission to publish excerpts from the letters in this newsletter; they cover the period 1895 to 1902.




Emma Newman and her brothers John and William were sent to Canada in Aug 1888. Emma was 13, William 12 and John 10. They sailed aboard the SS Parisian which left Liverpool on 16 August 1888 and arrived in Quebec City on 24 August 1888.


Their mother Louisa Newman nee Dowden, daughter of my great-great grandfather Andrew Dowden and sister of my great grandfather William Dowden, had died aged 36 on 12 Feb 1886 having fallen from a window at Crown Office Row in Temple off Fleet Street where she was a laundress.


Louisa’s husband William Newman, whom she had married 10 May 1874 at St Clement Danes in the Strand, was a Military Tailor in his father’s tailoring business and he had died 24 August 1882 at 2 West Street, Soho, London aged 31. His cause of death was alcohol related. On Louisa’s death, or very soon afterwards, the children were all put into Children’s Homes.


We know from Emma’s letters that she went to Ealing in West London. This would have been St Mary’s Road Girls Home which had opened at Ealing House in 1867. This was run by the National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children. Here Emma would have received a basic education and be trained in housework.


Letter from Miss Emma Newman to Alexander Dowden, her cousin

1st Feb 1895    c/o Mr Aaron Read  St Catherines  Ont  Box 807


Dear Alex


I suppose you think I should have answered before but I have been very busy and I thought I would keep you waiting a little while. Well, I received your letter, and one from Mrs Grestock at the same time. I had been out in the afternoon, and while I was gone Mr Read had been to town and got the letters, and I didn’t know anything about it until I had got supper all ready, and then he gave them to me. So then I didn’t want any supper it kind of took away my appetite to get two from England at once.


Mr Grestock sent me about a dozen views of the old Temple places. He said he supposed I would remember something about them, but I don’t remember much, you see I was never there since I was eight years old. He didn’t say anything about anyone bringing a message from me. I didn’t send one anyway. But last summer there was a fellow went from here to England, he might have seen him and told him some thing.  You don’t seem to be very good friends, what is the reason they never said anything about you when they wrote.


When I got your letter I couldn’t make out what I was getting in it I thought it was a penknife, so I was rather surprised to find a gold pen, the one end of it was broken but I took it up town and got it mended, and I thank you very much for it, I am writing with it now, this is the first I have written with it.


And I was surprised to find the picture you sent me, I didn’t think much of it when I first got it, but when I had read the letter, and how it came that you sent that kind of a one, and was going to send another I didn’t care. When I first got it I didn’t know which was you and which was Andrew, but I think I know now, you are the oldest looking one I suppose. Why if I had seen you I would never have known you, you don’t look anything like the one you sent before, I don’t ever remember seeing Andrew much, as far as that goes I never saw you much, the last time I saw you was when you run after the bus when we was leaving Exeter Hall*, maybe you have forgotten all about it, but I haven’t. Andrew looks like Will I mean my brother not yours.


*Exeter Hall was a large meeting hall at 372 Strand WC2 that at the time of this would have been the YMCA. It may well be that Emma and Alexander had gone there to hear a talk. The Strand Palace Hotel now occupies the site.


You needn’t tell Andrew but I think you are the best looking of the two. You must have had a good time going to so many parties. I never go to dances, never get the chance, and don’t know how to anyway and I wouldn’t go if I did. You see I am a Methodist now, and they don’t believe in dancing.


We have fine sleighing now, I was out to a sleigh riding last Tuesday That’s all the party I’ve been to as yet. I had a good time though, it was half past two next morning when I got home. We had two great revivalists in St Catherines last month, Hunter and Crossley was their names, and I used to get up to hear them once in a while, I used to like to go, the meetings were good. I have heard from Will and John both since Christmas, and they are both well. They are both in the same places yet.


John said he would like to come up around here if he could get a place and I wish he could. Will said he was off hunting all day Xmas but didn’t shoot any thing though. Will you please write to him and see if he will answer he says he has been careless and lost all addresses.


You spoke about sending me handkerchiefs, why I have got some cotton ones I brought from England yet, that I have never used, but you can send all the silk ones you like. I’ll have to get you to coax them up to send me a likeness of Florie, I expect she looks pretty nice.


Now it is not so bad out here as you think it is. I wish you would come and see for yourself you might make quite a bit at printing though I don’t know anything about it. There is one boy, at least he is a young man now, he has been out here 7 years and he makes quite a bit at making furniture.


I bought a pair of skates last week, but the ice is all covered over with snow now and I haven’t had a chance to learn. I expect to have some fun learning, I suppose I will fall down pretty often. I can stand up on the ice with them and go about 4 feet without falling and that is about all.


I think I have said about all I can think of now. How is Fred you never said any thing about him. I hope Uncle is getting better, and that you are all well as I am at present. Goodbye give my love to all and accept the same yourself. I am afraid if I was to see you I wouldn’t know how to talk to you, you look such dude’s in that photo.


I remain your affect Cousin

Emma Newman


Despite the tragic circumstances which led to Emma being sent to Canada, she seems to have landed on her feet. There will be more extracts from the correspondence in future newsletters.



Forensic genealogy offers families the gift of closure

A lot of the coverage of forensic genealogy in the media is critical of the way that DNA samples provided by family historians can be used to solve crimes and identify victims. This article from Scientific American is much more positive – well worth a read!


As I mentioned to Nicola, the LostCousins member who spotted the article, I began subscribing to Scientific American when I was at school in the 1960s. At the special student rate it cost just 2s 6d per copy, and whilst that was still a lot of money for someone whose pocket money was just 5s per week, it was worth it to be able read the wonderful Mathematical Games column by Martin Gardner.


Note: Gardner’s 1970 column about the Game of Life, invented by British mathematician John Horton Conway, inspired me to write a computer version when I bought my first home computer towards the end of that decade.



Recreating the woolly mammoth

Colossal Biosciences in the United States claims to be the world’s first and only de-extinction company. A month ago Colossal announced that their team working on bringing back the woolly mammoth had turned normal elephant cells into stem cells, the first step in creating a mammoth-like hybrid.


They’re aiming to bring their first ‘mammoth’ into the world in 2028, which – since elephants have a two-year gestation period – doesn’t give them very much time to refine their technology.



Neanderthals live on

Although the ancient hominins known as Neanderthals died out around 40,000 years go, possibly as a result of climate change, they interbred with early humans – and as a result we all carry some of their DNA.


Analysis of ancient DNA has produced Neanderthal genomes which are around 70% complete but, because ancient DNA degrades over time, Neanderthal sequences in the DNA of modern humans provide a more reliable source. A study of 27,566 people in Iceland was able to reconstruct 41% of the Neanderthal genome.


The latest study, which involves just 2,762 people from across India, has found around 50% of the Neanderthal genome – and there is the possibility that a larger study would find more, though whether we will ever get to 100% is in doubt. Either way, the chances that you or I will ever met a Neanderthal are pretty small – though you never know….. 



Reconstructing your ancestor’s DNA

If it’s possible to substantially recreate the DNA of Neanderthals, who died out around 40,000 years ago, and woolly mammoths, who haven’t walked the earth for perhaps 4000 years, what are the chances of recreating the DNA of one of our ancestors, perhaps someone who died just 200 years ago?


Of course, these are not like-for-like problems – if the Neanderthal genome can ever be fully-reconstructed it won’t be the DNA of any one individual, but a patchwork comprised of segments from many different ancient people. Even the Human Genome Project used samples from many different living people – as you can read here.


Because we only inherited half of our parents’ DNA, and they only inherited half of their parents’ DNA, and so on, it would be necessary to have DNA samples from a large number of documented descendants to even come close to reconstructing the DNA of one of their shared ancestors.


Even then we’d never get to 100%, because some DNA would fall away with each successive generation – for example, even if the ancestor in question had 10 children, there would be some DNA segments that weren’t inherited by any of them. If some of those children didn’t survive to adulthood even more DNA would be lost. And that’s just one generation…..


If you then take into account the difficulty of knowing which DNA segment was inherited from which ancestor, it’s clear that this piecemeal process isn’t very practical. And it would certainly be exceedingly expensive, even assuming all of the living descendants could be persuaded to test! 


Perhaps the best chance of getting hold of an ancestor’s DNA is to dig them up, something I’ve suggested in jest on a few occasions in the past. But even assuming we can get permission to disinter our ancestor, there is a moral question – would we be doing it purely for our own satisfaction, or in order that we can better honour the memory of our ancestors?


However there is one circumstance in which it would be relatively easy to justify analysing the DNA of a long-dead ancestor, and that is if the remains will be disinterred for some other reason. For example, a member recently posted a question on the LostCousins Forum relating to an ancestor buried in a graveyard which is on the route of HS2 (the proposed high-speed rail route from London to Birmingham, and possibly beyond). Remains might also be disinterred as a consequence of redevelopment, or the reorganisation of a cemetery in order to provide more space for future burials.


In fact, as I pointed out in a 2013 article, DNA testing might be the only way of identifying individuals in unmarked or pauper graves. I don’t know what the cost would be – certainly a lot more than we pay for conventional DNA testing – but let’s hope that it would be affordable. There’s also the question of how much the DNA would have degraded over the years.


Assuming that it would be practical, ethical, and affordable, how might it help to have samples of an ancestor’s DNA? For a start, we’d know which parts of our DNA were inherited from that ancestor – all of them, not just the few that happen to match with a cousin.


But more importantly, if Ancestry were to allow us to upload the DNA for (say) a 4G grandparent, there would be many more matches than we would normally get – indeed, the chances are that EVERY cousin (who shared that ancestor and had tested with Ancestry) would be a match, even though the chance of any two 5th cousins sharing the same DNA segment is normally less than one in three.


However, the real benefit would come from being able to identify cousins who share an ancestor from an earlier generation, because that’s how most ‘brick walls’ are knocked down.


Normally the chance of matching with a 7th cousin is less than 1 in 30 – but they wouldn’t be 7th cousin to a 4G grandparent, they would be 1st cousin 6 times removed. That might sound equally distant, but in terms of shared DNA they would be more like a 4th cousin, which means 2 in 3 would be a DNA match – 20 times as many.


Will we ever have the opportunity to sample our ancestors’ DNA? Over the years there have been a few examples of exhumations where DNA has been the motivation: in 2015 the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife were exhumed so that their DNA could be tested (see this BBC article for more information), and in the same year I reported that motor racing legend Fangio was to be exhumed so that a paternity test could be carried out. Salvador Dali suffered the same fate in 2017.


There is one example of an exhumation in England that I’m aware of: 12 years ago this month I reported that Allan Jenkins had been given permission for the exhumation of his mother, and though DNA was not the motivation in that case, it does provide some hope that permission might be granted for other reasons. You can download Mr Jenkins’ petition to the Consistory Court of of the Diocese of Southwark here – it might come in useful should you ever need to make a similar application.


Note: although DNA was not a factor in that particular case, coincidentally the article appeared in the same newsletter that I revealed my decision to test my own DNA.



Double identity

Last year I wrote about my next-door neighbour, who assumed his cousin’s identity after deserting from the Royal Navy, and not only married under his cousin’s name, but joined the army using his new identity. This article, written by a LostCousins member, demonstrates how she unpicked her great-grandfather’s deception with the help of DNA.


My great grandfather was a career soldier and told his wife and children that he had changed his name before enlisting; he said that one day he would tell them who he really was, and they would be surprised!


The story he regaled them with was that he had run away from home and enlisted in the army against his parent’s wishes, when he was under age. His parents had searched for him and when they discovered where he was they had bought him out of the army. Apparently this scenario was repeated, so the third time he ran away he changed his name and they never found him. He joined the Sixth Dragoon Guards, and eventually became a staff sergeant in the army, working with horses alongside the veterinary officers.


In 1926 the dear man went to York Races with my grandfather and they got caught in a thunderstorm; sadly he developed pneumonia and died within five days, without telling anyone who he really was. As you can probably appreciate, ever since there has been much speculation in our family!


This story had always seemed implausible to me, on various levels, but appears to have been believed at the time. He seemed to be inferring that he came from a wealthy, possibly well-known family, and even said on one census that he had been born in Windsor!


When I started researching family history, I looked for him in the records and sure enough, I couldn’t find him before his marriage in 1887, when he said that he was twenty-six years old. This implied that he was born in 1861, but no-one of his name was born around that year in any of the several places, he stated as his place of birth on the various census. Nor could I find in the 1861 or 1871 census any child where the father had the name he had given when he married. So I came to the conclusion that it was probably true that he had changed his name, but why had he done it, and who was he really?


I should mention that this was back in the day before we had searchable records online, I had to scroll through microfilm and microfiche in libraries to find any information, but I managed to get his 1904 discharge papers from the army – by paying a professional researcher to go to Kew. The discharge papers were not very helpful they said he had been born in Digbeth, and that his job had been a labourer when he enlisted in October 1881, which didn’t bear out his story implying wealthy parents.


There didn’t seem to be any way that we could identify our mysterious forebear, but then along came DNA testing and the slight possibility of breaking down this stubborn ‘brick wall’!


I had my DNA test and then started sifting through my DNA matches to find those who seemed to be from my great grandfather’s line. Quite a lot of my  relatives eventually got tested too, in order to help in the quest. I attempted to link the trees of those who matched with the appropriate members of my family, and I was pursuing this when the start of the breakthrough occurred…. 

I was contacted by a DNA match, a gentleman who had built a vast family tree (as have I), but we couldn’t see any connection between our trees. Consequently I suggested to him that the connection might be through my great grandfather, for whom I could find no trace before October 1881 when he enlisted.


But some months ago he contacted me again, to tell me that he had been looking into this, and had found 20+ matches descended from two sisters who had had a brother who had disappeared from the records in 1878, after being discharged from the army for health reasons. These matches all matched with me and/or my other family members. How exciting!


We then compared the army discharge papers of these ‘two’ men and found that there were a lot of similarities. They both had brown hair, and were said to have blue or gray eyes, were within an inch or so of the same height and, most significantly, both had a scar on the left forearm!


The first man had been discharged from the army in 1878 because of an injury which had occurred in Bermuda, when he was off duty and which was hampering his mobility. Nothing more could be found about him in the records from that date on.


As a further confirmation, we also exchanged photographs of family members and we could all see marked family resemblances.


The puzzle was solved, but I’m sure you want to know who he really was. He turned out to have been just an ordinary chap from a normal family in Sussex, not particularly wealthy or famous. His mother had died when he was a young child, his father had remarried and then because his father and stepmother had died when he was a teenager he had gone to live with his elderly grandmother for several years before joining the army.


Why did he change his name after being discharged? Was it perhaps he thought the army wouldn’t have him if they knew he had previously been discharged with a disability – even though it must have improved for him to be able to re-enlist. He also said that he was younger than he really was, presumably so that they didn’t think he was too old to enlist.


 Could he have been claiming a pension in his other name? We certainly haven’t found any record of a pension. Was there something else he was fleeing from? I don’t suppose we will ever find out, but we do know that what he had said to his family wasn’t quite true.


Nevertheless, nearly a century after his death we do at least feel that we know who he really was!


Do you have any similar stories in your family? Why did your ancestor change his identity – and how did it work out?



Some unexpected discoveries

Last autumn I bought myself a rather extravagant birthday present – it cost £150 – but it was all in a good cause, because it came from Oxfam.


Those of you who have met me may be wondering if I bought myself a second-hand suit. However, what I bought was even older than the clothes in my wardrobe: a handful of papers related to the Reverend Henry John Cooper who died in 1845 and, according to several Ancestry trees, was born in Kent in 1801.


Regular readers of this newsletter may recall that my first foray into historical research came in 1993 when I purchased a collection of correspondence dating from the 1830s to the 1850s, so perhaps it was appropriate that – almost exactly 30 years later – I was once again delving into someone else’s family.


There were three documents which particularly interested me: one was the original licence for the 1835 marriage of Rev Cooper to Barbara Currie Snell, because I’d only ever seen such documents online. It transpired that whilst they married in Windlesham, Surrey the bride had, like me, been born in Ilford, Essex. Another document was the 1841 warrant appointing him Chaplain to His Royal Highness Prince Albert, Consort of Queen Victoria – this bears Prince Albert’s signature, which was missing from my collection of Royal autographs.


The third document that intrigued me was a letter from the Admiralty dated 30th December 1852 which began with the words “Madam, according to Your Royal Highness’s desire, I asked the Duke the question Your Royal Highness wished to know, about the young Cooper….”.


Reading the letter it was clear that enquiries had been made regarding the possibility of a cadetship in the Royal Navy for Henry, the only son of the late Rev’d and Mrs Cooper. The letter, signed by the Duke of Northumberland – who had been First Lord of the Admiralty until the minority government led by the Earl of Derby collapsed in mid-December – explained that cadetships were reserved for sons of officers in the Navy, Army, and Marines, so that as the son of a clergyman young Henry would not qualify.


He did, however, get a commission in the end. Admiralty records for Henry Towry Miles Cooper at The National Archives (ADM 196/60/19 and ADM 196/60/30) show that he joined the Royal Marines Light Infantry, serving as a 2nd Lieutenant from 1855, and being promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1858. On his return to the Portsmouth HQ in 1867 he was promoted to 2nd Captain, and to Captain the following year.


In February 1872, aged just 33, he was put on the ‘retired list’ at his own request, qualifying for an annuity of £122 pa, which he commuted to a lump sum of £1725 19s 6d shortly afterwards. This turned out to be a good decision since he died less than 5 years later, in January 1877, having served as Collector of Customs for the Settlement on the Gambia in the intervening period.


Tip: you can download those Admiralty records – and many others – free from The National Archives website. Free access to digitised records was introduced during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but no end date has been announced.


The most interesting question from my point of view was, who was the ‘Royal Highness’ referred to in the Admiralty letter, and how did the letter end up with the Cooper family papers?

There was a clue in one of the other letters. An undated letter from ‘Mary’ to Barbara Cooper reports that her attempt to secure a place for young Henry has been unsuccessful. The monogram of a crown over the word ‘Mary’ suggests a Royal personage, and one possibility is Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh.


Born in 1776, the year in which the American Colonies declared independence, Princess Mary was the 11th child of King George III and Queen Charlotte, and the longest-lived – she died in April 1857, a few days after her 81st birthday.


The proof was in the final letter, also from ‘Mary’, with a date (April 28) and the letters ‘G H’ at the top. It took me a while to realise, but G H clearly stands for Gloucester House.


There is a wonderful photograph taken at Gloucester House in 1856 which shows Queen Victoria with her eldest son, Albert Edward (later Edward VII), her daughter, Princess Alice, and her aunt, Princess Mary – you can see it here.


Note: the photo was temporarily unavailable when I checked this morning – the Royal Collection Trust website is undergoing maintenance.



History of the Royal Marines 1837-1914

In the course of researching the previous article I came across a comprehensive history of the Royal Marines which was completed in January 1934 by H E Blumberg – you can download it here.


Further research revealed that the author was none other than General Sir Herbert Edward Blumberg, KCB who had previously written Britain's Sea Soldiers: A Record of the Royal Marines During the War 1914 - 1919. Blumberg died in August 1934, just months after finishing his remarkable history of the Royal Marines’ first 77 years.



Don’t be misled by the GRO birth indexes

Another discovery I made during my research into the Cooper family was that the birth of Henry Tory Miles Cooper was incorrectly registered in 1838.



Although the names of Henry’s parents are shown correctly, his mother’s former surname isn’t given, which means that when the General Register Office created a new birth index in the 21st century, no mother’s maiden name was recorded. This would usually indicate an illegitimate birth


Also see this example from my January newsletter.



British man is oldest in the world

John Tinniswood, at 111 years and nearly 8 months, is the oldest man in the world – and just to prove it I’ve dug out his entry from the 1921 Census:


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


You can read more about John and his remarkably long life in this BBC News article.



Save on Ancestry DNA UK ONLY - ENDS SUNDAY

Ancestry charge a little more for their tests but in my experience they’re ten times more useful than tests purchased from other companies, and I’ve tried them all!


The good news is that until Sunday 14th April you can save 25% on DNA tests from Ancestry.co.uk – please use the link below so that you can support LostCousins when you make your purchase (if it doesn’t seem to work at first, log-out from Ancestry then click the link again).


Save 25% on AncestryDNA®. Terms Apply.


Remember to follow the advice in my DNA Masterclass – it’s designed to save you TIME as well as MONEY!



National Pet Day TODAY!

I’ve never heard of National Pet Day before and nor has our cat. But if you have a dog, you might be interested to know that Ancestry now offer a DNA test for dogs!


Save on a dog DNA test! Only £65* with Know your Pet DNA by Ancestry®. Offer ends 11 Apr 2024.


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Save on Who Do You Think You Are? magazine EXCLUSIVE OFFER

I've been a reader of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine ever since issue 1, and I can tell you from personal experience that every issue is packed with advice on how to research your family tree, including how to track down online records, how to get more from DNA tests, and the ever-popular readers' stories. Naturally you also get to look behind-the-scenes of the popular Who Do You Think You Are? TV series.


There's an extra special introductory offer for members in the UK, but there are also offers for overseas readers, each of which offers a useful saving on the cover price:


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To take advantage of any of these deals (and to support LostCousins) please follow this link.



Peter’s Tips

We had a bumper crop of fruit last year, and most of the gooseberries went into the freezer. This week my wife harvested our first batch of rhubarb this year, so I decided it was time to start cooking up last year’s gooseberries. They’re small and very tasty, but I didn’t ‘top-and-tail’ them before they went in the freezer, so I was initially daunted, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.


Cutting the stalks off is easy, but removing the bushy tails is usually quite tricky; when I use scissors either I cut into the fruit, or I leave half of the ‘tail’ intact. Quite by accident I discovered that because the gooseberries were frozen I could remove the tails very easily with my finger nail, whilst the stems could easily be broken off.


It’s not an original tip – I subsequently discovered that there are plenty of similar tips online – but perhaps, like me, you’d never thought to look?


Did you watch The Jury earlier this year? It recreates a real case using actors, with all the dialogue taken from court transcripts, and challenges two juries to reach a verdict in a difficult case. Whilst the juries know that the parts are being played by actors, neither jury knows of the other’s existence. If you missed the 4-part series, and are in the UK, you can watch it free here – thoroughly recommended.


It was especially interesting for me because the series was shot in Chelmsford, where I did jury duty in 2018 – though the programme used the old courthouse as the setting, rather than the current building. But the inside of one court looks much like another.


Reading a review of The Jury I discovered an American series called Jury Duty, which was shown last year. The premise is slightly different: all the participants are actors, with the exception of one juror, who has no idea that the case isn’t real. Although billed as a comedy, the fact that one of the participants isn’t in on the secret makes it an interesting study of human nature – and you can’t help empathising with Ronald. We watched on FreeVee, which is a free, ad-supported, Amazon service.



Stop Press

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2024 Peter Calver


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