Newsletter – 10th August 2021
Over 9 million newspaper articles are FREE online BREAKING NEWS
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 28th July) 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!
Some think of LostCousins as a newsletter, some think of it as a website – but I think of LostCousins as a community, a community of people who have shared interests and shared goals.
There may be only 70,000 members on the mailing list for this newsletter, but they're some of the most experienced family historians around – the majority have been researching longer than I have. They're also some of the most helpful people you'll find, as I was reminded just this morning when a member in Australia drew my attention to these comments on the Cheshire mailing list at Groups.io:
"Ancestry in theory allows you to contact your matches but my experience is that very few people respond (or perhaps they don't get the message?)….."
"I, too, am disappointed at the response (or lack of) to my reaching out to many possible/probably DNA matches. I'm not sure that I have had anyone contact me first. I think we have to accept that many people have taken DNA tests for reasons other than finding "cousins" or have simply lost interest in research since submitting their DNA. I have had a lot more success in making contact with previously unknown relatives by using the LostCousins site. I highly recommend the site."
As others involved in the discussion point out, there are lots of reasons for taking DNA tests – most of your genetic cousins aren’t going to be keen researchers like you (though provided you follow the strategies in my DNA Masterclass that won't be a problem).
But we all joined LostCousins in order to connect with, and collaborate with, other members who are researching the same ancestral lines. It's all about people….
Over 9 million newspaper articles are free online BREAKING NEWS
Findmypast and British Newspaper Archive, in conjunction with the British Library, are making 158 newspapers with over 1 million pages and more than 9 million articles free to search (they cover the period 1720-1880). Over the next 4 years the number of free pages will increase to at least 2.7 million, and by my calculations the number of free articles could reach 25 million.
In all the archive holds more than 44 million pages, a number that increases weekly. To restrict your search to the free newspapers follow this link to Findmypast, or see the blog article which explains why these particular newspapers have been chosen.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in following the article in my last newsletter, either endorsing the items on my 'wish list' or submitting ideas of your own.
Please bear in mind that indexes cannot include information that isn't in the original records – so, for example, there is no possibility of the GRO adding maiden names to the historic death indexes (because prior to 1969 this information wasn't recorded when deaths were registered).
The good news is that the virtual meeting with the GRO has now taken place; the bad news is that all attendees were obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so cannot share any information revealed at the meeting. However you can be sure that, as in 2016, LostCousins members will be the first to get a comprehensive analysis of any developments that will impact family historians.
Princess Diana famously said, in a now infamous interview, that "there were three of us in this marriage", but legally marriages in the UK involve two people, traditionally a man and woman.
The Registrar General wrote in 1883 that the number of wives in the 1881 England & Wales census exceeded the number of husbands by 61,064 – a discrepancy of just over 1.2%. Writing in Making Sense of the Census (page 66 of the original 1989 edition) Edward Higgs suggests that some of the husbands may have been out of the country but delicately adds "the exact marital status of others may be in some doubt". Higgs further notes that the "number of 'married' women under the age of twenty years whose husbands were absent is especially high".
It's yet another reminder that we shouldn't always believe the information that our ancestors provided!
There were two censuses on 30th March 1851: the decennial population census that we're familiar with, and a one-off survey of places of worship. The latter included not only parish churches, but also their non-conformist and Roman Catholic counterparts, as well as synagogues and Quaker meeting houses – and the statistics published afterwards indicate that slightly fewer than half of all worshippers attended their parish church on that particular Sunday.
Whilst there are no names listed (other than the names of the individuals who completed the returns), the numbers given for the size of the congregations could well provide an interesting insight into the lives of your ancestors. Some of my Essex ancestors were baptised at St Peter ad Vincula, the parish church of Coggeshall, but the baptisms of others are found in the notebooks kept by the minister of the independent church in Coggeshall, which seems to have attracted worshippers from the surrounding parishes as well.
The Reverend W J Dampier, vicar of St Peter ad Vincula, declined to state the number of attendees on 30th March 1851, arguing that it was "difficult to estimate the number of persons attending Divine Service in so large a church" – so not full, then – and hedging his bets by saying "nor would the attendance on one day fairly represent the general congregation". The latter plea was particularly disingenuous since the form provided him with the opportunity to enter the average number of attendees in previous months had he so wished.
By contrast, the minister of the dissenting chapel was proud to state that 429 adults and 133 Sunday scholars had attended on the morning of 30th March, as well as 600 in the afternoon.
During the pandemic the National Archives is allowing free downloads of many records, including the Ecclesiastical Census returns. Search for the reference HO129 and add the name of the location, for example:
There's no need to enter any more information than I've shown in the screenshot above. When you get the search results, make a note of the folio numbers for the establishments of interest as it can be quite hard figuring out what you're looking at when you view the microfilm (not least because many of the images will be on their side).
You can see part of the Registrar General's report on the Ecclesiastical Census if you follow this link to the Open University.
Although I was an enumerator in 1971 I can’t claim to remember anything about the census form, even though I helped more than a few of the older residents fill it in. So I was delighted to find a site where I could download copies of forms used in England and Wales for the 1971-2021 censuses, as well as the Scotland censuses from 1991-2021 (though, of course, the 2021 census has been postponed until 2022), and the Northern Ireland censuses from 1981-2011.
You can download the forms here. Many census forms for communal establishments are available on the same page.
Tip: if, like me, you’re fascinated by historic censuses you'll find these instructions to enumerators for the 1841-1901 censuses interesting.
Last week the Society of Genealogists (SoG) announced the appointment of their new Chief Executive Officer, Dr Wanda Wyporska. I'm delighted that she agreed to an exclusive interview even though she won’t be taking up her post officially until 1st October:
PC: Congratulations on your new job – I know you're an historian, but is this the first time you've ventured into the word of genealogy? Have you researched your own family tree?
WW: Thank you so much. I’ve been so overwhelmed by the friendly welcome I’ve received from the Genealogy community. I have to admit that I have dabbled a little, but always been indecisive about which strand to pursue! My father is from Barbados, my mother is half Polish and half English, so I’ve been spoilt for choice.
However, I did do some basic research into my Polish grandfather’s side, when I applied for Polish citizenship and the name Wyporski/Wyporska is relatively rare, I think there are fewer than 50 families with that name in Poland. In the village where my grandfather was born, there are many Wyporskis in the cemetery. As my doctoral thesis was on early modern Polish records, I was familiar with the archives and records there which made it easier. My mother’s cousin, Wala, is a historian and has also done some genealogical work and other relatives have also looked into different branches. I’m really looking forward to picking this up again and perhaps even thinking about a One Name Study in the future. I’m brushing up my skills with an SoG course naturally!
PC: A lot of my ancestors came from East Anglia, home to Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General, so I was intrigued to see that you've written a book entitled Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland, 1500-1800 (although sadly it’s out of my price range). Do you think that our ancestors really believed in witches, or was it just an excuse to persecute people who were different, rather like trolling someone on social media today?
WW: I’m afraid academic print runs are very small and so prices are very high, which is a shame. Our ancestors lived in a time when religion and belief systems were regarded in a very different way. Religion permeated customs, habits, practice and everyday life and people really did believe in the Devil and in supernatural events and causes. If you were dependent on your cow for survival and it fell ill, you would want to know why it was your cow that became ill and not your neighbour’s animal and ill will and witchcraft could provide an explanation. There’s also a huge question of power dynamics and given that it was virtually impossible to prove the crime, it could be levelled against someone you had a grudge against. In my research, lots of women who were servants were accused, as well as children.
PC: You're coming from The Equality Trust, which aims to level up society. What attracted you to the Society of Genealogists, which many still think of as an elite organisation for people with aristocratic connections?
WW: There are so many things that attracted me to SoG! A wonderful library and archive, a rich history as an organisation, the dedication of staff, trustees and members and the great educational events and courses. Everyone I’ve spoken to about taking up this role, has then started to talk enthusiastically about their family history. There’s huge appetite from a range of people to discover more about their family history, whatever their background. A wonderfully illustrated pedigree of the Lucas family in the SoG collection starts with the sentiment of having once been very great and now come down in the world, which I think is very true for families over time. Fortunes fluctuate. I find it equally interesting to read about the aristocracy as I do the foundlings and those in workhouses. Society of Genealogists is here for everyone to discover their place in history and I look forward to working with a wide range of people and organisations.
PC: The SoG has a wonderful library, but not everyone can get to London cheaply and easily. What would you say to encourage the 95% of LostCousins members who live outside the London area to join?
WW: That’s right, we have a wonderful library and collections not available anywhere else. However, what I love is that we are a society which is here for its members and we pride ourselves on the human touch. Conversations in the members’ room, relationships struck up and events attended are wonderful if you can make it to London. However, members don’t need to leave their homes to take advantage of the many events, courses, and collections we have online. Over the last year or so, we’ve been able to reach far more people while also supporting people with queries.
We have many unique unpublished manuscript notes and printed and unpublished family histories. We hold the largest collection of parish register copies and many nonconformist registers. Along with registers, we hold local histories, copies of churchyard gravestone inscriptions, poll books, trade directories, census indexes and a wealth of information about the parishes where our ancestors lived.
Many of our unique indexes are online including Boyd’s Marriage Index with more than 7 million names, indexes of wills and marriage licences, apprentices and masters (1710-1774), London City Apprenticeships, Boyd’s Inhabitants of London as well as records such as the Bank of England will abstracts, Trinity House petitions and information on Teachers and Civil Servants.
PC: Finally, I notice that in the past you've written for the Guardian, Independent and other media outlets – would you consider writing an article for the LostCousins newsletter at some point during your first year? (I'm afraid that because it's a free newsletter we don’t pay contributors.)
WW: I’d be delighted to and will certainly have a fuller family tree chart on my wall by then!
PC: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me, and the 70,000 family historians who receive my newsletter – I wish you well in your new job.
Ancestry periodically make changes to their Terms and Conditions, but one recent change has users in uproar:
At first sight this is outrageous – although Ancestry aren't claiming ownership of content that you upload, they want to be able to use it forever. However it's important to remember why so many researchers have family trees at Ancestry – it provides an opportunity to share information with other users, including our own cousins.
Ancestry users can copy information posted by other Ancestry users and add it to their own trees – it's virtually impossible for Ancestry to keep track of this, and even if they could, if they deleted information from the trees of X, Y, and Z when A deleted her tree they wouldn't be very popular.
They'd also find it difficult to explain to P, Q and R – who haven't even seen A's tree – why the information they've copied from the tree of X, Y or Z has been removed. And as for J, K and L who copied from P, Q, or R..... well, you get the picture.
Incidentally, Ancestry would also have to go through this process for B's tree, even though the only reason B deleted his tree was to upload an updated version. In this case Ancestry wouldn't be able to reinstate the content they've deleted from the trees of other users who had copied from B's earlier tree, even if it was also in the new tree.
This is clearly the sort of situation that Ancestry have in mind, because they go on to say:
In other words, if you delete your content and it’s also deleted by everyone else, the license terminates. If you don’t want people to copy your content, don't allow them to access it in the first place!
Liz wrote to me recently with this wonderful true story:
"I come from an extremely small paternal family right back to my 3G grandfathers and beyond. However, my mother's line is very different! Her mother was one of 11 children and although 2 died in childhood the rest lived long and productive lives creating 42 grandchildren from the parents of those 11 children. As you can imagine, out of those 42 there were a few illegitimacies and children who were 'adopted out'. With the help of DNA I've been sorting them out!!
"Several years ago I decided it was time to ask the only survivor (of the 42) if he would take a DNA test. At the time it was difficult to know who to test with and I chose LivingDNA. Several years later I tested with Ancestry and copied my DNA results onto LivingDNA and various other sites. I've gathered numerous cousins from Ancestry but none, so far, from other sites. Due to Bill's age (96) and his health my email address is used for his DNA. I never bothered to look at his DNA results, as they were only there to check that he was definitely in my family.
"Imagine my surprise when during Lockdown I received an email from LivingDNA to say there was a very close match for Bill with another researcher... a granddaughter!! This was of interest to me – I knew his 4 daughters and I had their children on my tree. Who is this granddaughter? I messaged her. Typically there was no reply. Fortunately she has a most unusual married surname so I decided to look for her on Facebook. Great, there she was. I messaged her and this time she responded. 'No, he couldn't be her grandfather as she already had one.' Knowing that I was right and that DNA doesn't lie, I had to prove to her that her purported grandfather was NOT her grandfather. I asked her if she had found any connections between her purported grandfather and any other members of the family on that line through DNA – she hadn't. Also, fortunately, she had taken her DNA on Ancestry which showed that she and I are 2nd cousins once removed.
"Unfortunately she hadn't spoken to her father for 2 years so I had to get her to ask him to take a test, which she did. His test showed that Bill was definitely his father – now to explain to Bill that he had a son. Did he actually know about him? It would seem not, because on his 95th birthday, he had announced to all his friends that he always wished he had a son.
"Sadly, the mother of his son had died suddenly at the age of 39, and her husband didn't want to know the young boy who, on paper, was his son. Perhaps he was aware that he wasn't really the father?
"Last month Bill and his son were able to meet up at Bill's home in Wales – they got on really well. This proves how important DNA is, and that once you've taken the test you make sure to follow up on the results."
I'd certainly endorse Liz's recommendation – you wouldn't believe how many people splash out on a DNA test, but don't bother to follow the advice in my DNA Masterclass!
Clearly they don’t realise how much they would benefit from following the simple and straightforward strategies that I've distilled from my 9 years of practical experience of DNA testing. During that time I've worked with literally dozens of DNA tests – I manage or co-manage 16 tests for relatives at Ancestry alone – and I'm one of the few people to have had their whole genome tested for genealogical purposes (typical DNA tests for genealogists look at a small fraction of 1% of your DNA).
If you don’t know your warp from your weft this glossary of weaving terms will prove illuminating. I never knew that stuff could be so interesting, and as for shoddy…..
A book with a foreword by Sir Ian Diamond, the UK National Statistician, which has been co-authored by an award-winning writer and someone who has worked for the Office for National Statistics for more than 20 years, ought to be pretty authoritative - so I had high hopes when I started to read The Official History of Britain: Our Story in Numbers as Told by the Office For National Statistics by Boris Starling with David Bradbury.
Unfortunately, even before I had finished reading the introduction, I had spotted two glaring errors – on page 19 the authors imply that there was a question about religion in the 1851 Census (there wasn't), then on the very next page they state that '1901 saw unmarried women differentiated from their married or widowed counterparts for the first time', which is total rubbish. It's true that it wasn't until 1891 that the description 'Single' replaced 'Unmarried', but it was only in 1841 that the census didn't ask about marital status.
Then, on pages 21 and 22, the authors write that "The 1931 census went off without a hitch, but 11 years later all the results were destroyed in a fire". Of course, it wasn't the results of the census that were lost, it was the census returns – and it was only the returns for England & Wales that were lost, not Scotland.
On page 24 the authors state confidently that even the police cannot obtain information from censuses which are less than 100 years old – yet readers of this newsletter will know that's incorrect (see this article from April). And on page 25 they tell us that prior to the introduction of civil registration in 1837 "the registration of births, marriages and deaths had long been done by the Church of England". I wish! Parish register are wonderful resources, but they usually record baptisms and burials, not births and deaths (though you will find birth dates given in some cases).
I'm not going to comment on the rest of the book because I couldn’t bring myself to read beyond the introduction, especially after glancing through the lukewarm reviews on Amazon. Shame on the Office for National Statistics for allowing their name to be associated with this lightweight (in both senses of the word) publication.
The term 'pram' is a contraction of 'perambulator', a word that I recall from my childhood but had quite forgotten. The prams I remember from the 1950s and 1960s were all the Silver Cross brand, so I was staggered to discovered just how many manufacturers there once were – including a long-established firm called Tan Sad which was effectively controlled by the group of companies I worked for from 1974-75 (several of the companies, including Tan Sad, went out of business around that time, although many of the brand names live on, including Conway Stewart).
The main section of this unique book comprises a large format 40th anniversary facsimile of Jack Hampshire's long out-of-print masterpiece Prams Mailcarts and Bassinets; this is bookended by a short introduction and a much longer illustrated guide to pram makers, both by Janet Rawnsley (who seems to be Jack Hampshire's spiritual heir).
I originally came across this book not because I had an interest in prams, but because I have a Victorian mailcart and wanted to find out more about them. The section on mailcarts turned out to be disappointingly short, but the book more than makes up for this with its comprehensive coverage of the pram from the earliest times to the second half of the 20th century (though it’s only in the 1880s that prams came into general use). As for bassinets, I didn't even know they were until I read the book….
There are illustrations galore, mostly photographs – some of which, I suspect are of prams in Jack Hampshire's collection, which has now sadly been broken up. All in all, it's a unique – albeit pricey – book that will bring back memories for many and enlighten others. Please note that although described as hardcover by Amazon, my copy is a paperback, so I'm not 100% certain what you'll get if you place an order (but I did pay a bit less than the £38 plus postage price currently quoted). The book seems to be only available in the UK (it's both large and heavy), and I suspect that supplies are very limited given how expensive a volume like this would have been to produce.
When a sweep found a 60 year-old letter to Santa in a Worksop chimney there didn't seem much chance of identifying the author – but now he's been identified as a retired policeman living in Surrey. You can read all about this hearth-warming story in this BBC article.
I've just discovered that August 9th-15th is Afternoon Tea Week, a chance to indulge in a British tradition. Had you asked me a week ago the last time my wife and I had enjoyed afternoon tea, I'd have told you that it was so long ago that I couldn’t remember – but as it happens we indulged ourselves last Saturday, unknowingly pre-empting Afternoon Tea Week. No scones and jam for us, though, just freshly-baked Bara Brith served with Lapsang Souchong (which is our afternoon tea of choice).
It’s a long time since I've made Bara Brith – too long, in fact, I'd forgotten just how delicious it is! There are plenty of recipes online but I followed one I bought many years ago from the Weaver's Loft Café at Penmachno Woollen Mill in Snowdonia. I took the liberty of increasing the dried fruit content by a third and substituting muscovado sugar for granulated, both of which worked well.
I used to spend every Easter in Snowdonia, staying in one of the houses in the 'village' of Portmeirion where The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan, was filmed in the late 1960s. As anyone who is familiar with the series will know, McGoohan's character was referred to as Number 6 – coincidentally (or not) also the name of a popular cigarette brand that's no longer with us. But do you also know who prisoner No.7 was, and where he or she was in the 1960s? (Note: if you don't know the answer, it's fairly easy to find out using Google.)
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 soon with another newsletter – I've already got several articles lined up. In the meantime, I do hope you'll play your part in the community that is LostCousins!
© Copyright 2021 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? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.