Newsletter – 11th December 2020
New Year Competition starts now! GREAT PRIZES
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 27th November) 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!
New Year Competition starts now! GREAT PRIZES
I've decided to start this year's competition earlier than normal because, to be frank, this isn’t a normal year. But one thing hasn't changed – there is an amazing collection of prizes to be won, and to have a chance of winning you only have to do what should come naturally to any LostCousins member: search for your 'lost cousins'.
(For those of you who've yet to begin searching for cousins, this is a very good time to put your excuses to one side and make a start, even if you can only spare 15 minutes - that's all it took for a previous winner of my annual competition!)
Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page between Thursday 10th December 2020 and midnight (London time) on Sunday 31st January 2021 represents an entry in the competition, and for each one you enter from the 1881 Census you'll get a bonus entry.
Tip: a 'direct ancestor' is someone from whom you are descended, such as a great-great grandparent - many people just call them ancestors; a 'blood relative' is a cousin, ie someone who shares your ancestry.
Shortly after the competition closes I'll start picking relatives at random from all those correctly entered during the period of the competition, and the lucky members who entered those relatives will be able to choose a prize from the list below (the first person out of the hat gets to choose first, the second person has next choice, and so on).
Note: I can’t wait forever for winners to make up their minds, because this prevents me offering prizes to other winners - so if you don’t respond within 24 hours I'll pick a prize on your behalf.
This year I'm once again going to keep up the excitement and the suspense by telling you about the prizes you can win one by one, in successive newsletters, starting with:
I'm delighted to announce that Findmypast, Britain's leading family history company, have generously agreed to donate a 12 month Pro subscription - providing virtually unlimited access to every one of the billions of historical records, modern records, and newspaper articles in Findmypast's enormous collection.
If you already have a Findmypast subscription don’t panic – if you’re lucky enough to win this valuable prize you can activate your Pro subscription when your existing subscription runs out.
Not sure who to enter? It's all in the next article....
The most important page at the LostCousins is the My Ancestors page. But don't be fooled by the name – it's not just for direct ancestors, and here's why……
If you're my age or older the chances are that some or all of your grandparents were born before 1881. Naturally you'll enter them if they were on the census, but what's the chance of those entries leading to 'lost cousins'? Pretty small as it happens, because anyone descended from your grandparents is a 1st cousin of yours, and you probably know all of your 1st cousins already.
What about your great-grandparents? Their descendants are your 2nd cousins – so you'll probably know some of them, but not others. However they're not all going to be family historians like you, and the chances are that the ones who are researching their ancestry have already been in touch. So not much chance of finding 'lost cousins' there, either.
Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't enter your direct ancestors – of course you should. But they're just a stepping stone on the journey – not the final destination. The key relatives to enter are the ancestors of your 'lost cousins' – which means entering the relatives from the branches of your tree, because ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches.
If I look at my own My Ancestors page there are 25 'direct ancestors' who I've been able to enter from the 1881 Census (several of them died shortly after the census, so I'm possibly a little luckier than most). But of course, it’s not the number of my ancestors that determines how many new cousins I'm going to find, it's how many of their ancestors that I've entered – and the best guide to that is the number of 'blood relatives' that I've found in 1881 and entered. That figure is much higher, at 692, and whilst some of them won’t have any living descendants, any one of them could potentially provide a connection to a 'lost cousin'.
The important thing to remember is that even if all of my 'direct ancestors' had emigrated before the census, most of those 'blood relatives' would have stayed in Britain, and they and/or their descendants would have been recorded on the 1881 Census. In other words, it’s not where your ancestors were in 1881 that matters, but where their cousins were.
So remember, the page might be called My Ancestors, but it’s really a page where you enter your cousins' ancestors – or your ancestors' cousins (it’s the same thing, of course).
Tip: a good strategy is to start with everyone you know about in 1841 (whether or not you've found them on that census), then track each branch and twig through to 1881, making use of the ten-yearly censuses and the new GRO birth indexes which show the mother's maiden name from 1837.
Next year's 'Transcription Tuesday' will take place on 2nd February – follow this link for more details.
A year ago I wrote that the release of version 7 of Family Historian was imminent – I'm relieved that is finally out, and I know that there will be many users who are absolutely delighted.
You can download a 30-day free trial version here.
Many of you will have bought Ancestry DNA kits during the recent sale (and you can still save 25% or more if you follow the links here because another sale has started). But what's the best way of using those kits – whose DNA is most likely to lead you to the answers you're seeking?
When it comes to vaccines we don't have much choice – the priority is decided by scientists and clinicians – but when it comes to DNA tests it's largely down to us to choose who we ask to test.
As with the vaccines not everyone will say yes, but it would be a mistake to design your testing strategy based around your expectations of who will agree to take part – not least because if you have a good reason why person A should test rather than person B, it'll make it much easier to persuade person A to participate.
As the nearly 70,000 recipients of this newsletter are all family historians I'm going to assume that you're looking to DNA to solve mysteries in your family tree – knock down 'brick walls', in other words. We do this by examining the clues provided by the thousands of DNA matches we get and making deductions about how we are related to our genetic cousins – or as many of them as possible. Figuring out how we connect to our matches is the tricky bit.
It's extremely rare to be able to tell from the amount of matched DNA precisely how closely-related two people are – and whilst Ancestry (or any other company) will give you a rough estimate of what the relationship is, you shouldn’t read too much into this. It's a guess – an informed guess, perhaps, but still a guess.
But even if you knew how closely-related to someone you were, that wouldn't tell you precisely how you were related, ie which ancestral lines you share with them.
Tip: If you’re an Ancestry subscriber and have uploaded your tree then in a few cases, perhaps 200 to 300 out of 10000, you'll be told that you have 'Common Ancestors'. Similarly, when you follow the strategies in my DNA Masterclass you'll identify trees which include the same surnames and/or the same locations, further clues that might help you knock down 'brick walls'. But these matches will be the minority.
Most of the time you won't know either how closely-related you are to a match, or which ancestral lines you share with them. Fortunately there's help at hand – and as so often happens, this help comes from your cousins. But first let's consider who should be first to test.
Test members of the older generation first
Your own DNA might be irrelevant – sorry, but if your parents are still alive there's little point taking a DNA test yourself. You've only inherited half of your parents' DNA, so they should be the ones to test (assuming there's nobody from your grandparents' generation still living).
Even if one or both of your parents have passed away you might not still not be the best person to test – as an example, your mother's brother won’t have inherited the same DNA as she did, but it's just as likely to provide the answers you're looking for: both of them will have inherited precisely half of their parents' (your grandparents') autosomal DNA.
Should you ask a sibling to test?
If there's nobody still around from your parents generation and you've taken a DNA test yourself, you might be considering asking your sibling(s) to test. But first consider this: your brothers and sisters share all of your ancestors – so knowing that you share a match with them isn't going to help you figure out where the match fits on your tree. The time to invite siblings and other close relatives to test is later on, when several distant cousins have already tested – that's because, provided you manage their test, you'll be able to spot matches that your close relatives share with your distant cousins.
Mistakes beginners make
What you certainly cannot do is assume that the cousins who share the most DNA with you are also the most closely-related – there is a rough correlation, but once you get beyond 2nd cousins it's pretty meaningless. For example, you share DNA with many 6th, 7th, 8th and more distant cousins, but you don’t share DNA with all of your 4th and 5th cousins. You may not even share DNA with all of your 3rd cousins. So working your way down the list of matches on the assumption that the ones higher up the list are the most useful is a pretty poor strategy, one that will almost inevitably lead to frustration, wasted effort, and disappointment.
Making use of shared matches
Let's suppose that you and one of your documented cousins both have a DNA match with person Q. This strongly indicates that the connection with Q is in the part of your tree that you share with your documented cousin. But if you’re trying to knock down a specific 'brick wall' you can turn the process around, and invite cousins who share that particular 'brick wall' with you to test.
The more distant the cousins, the easier it is to target the 'brick wall' that you're trying to knock down. Ideally you'd choose cousins who share only that one line with you – but you'll generally have to make do with cousins who share two lines.
Siblings and close cousins
The closer the cousin who tests, the more ancestral lines you share with them – for example, we share half our tree with 1st cousins, a quarter with 2nd cousins, and so on. When close cousins test there are more shared matches, but you learn less about each one – and bearing in mind how difficult it is to knock down longstanding 'brick walls' my advice is to make use of your distant cousins. The tighter your focus on the 'brick wall', the more likely it is that you'll knock it down using the clues that DNA provides.
Finding distant cousins who can help
A great way to find distant cousins is to complete your My Ancestors page, and that's why it’s the first step in the DNA Masterclass. The advantages of finding 'lost cousins' include:
Choosing who should take a DNA test is an important decision: get it right and it will make an enormous difference to your chances of knocking down your most frustrating 'brick walls'. Get it wrong and you're wasting time and money. Your time, your money – your decision!
I've written in the past about family heirlooms discovered on eBay and elsewhere, but this story sent in by Richard is one of the most wonderful tales that I've come across:
I have a watch on various sale websites (ebay, saleroom.com, invaluable etc) on various family names. Except of course for Jones, Evans, Davies of which we have many from our Welsh ancestry!
As I have Estlin ancestors I was very interested when an alert came up on a sale in Salisbury in January for this ring:
"A George III gold mourning ring, with gold and enamel urn beneath inscribed the words T:Estlin M:Bowles, in glazed with mourning inscription to the reverse dated 1776, size L."
I contacted the auctioneer to find out what the exact inscription read:
Ob: 31 Aug
Ob: 29 Mar
1771(?) - 1777 (?)
(In case your Latin is rusty, 'ob' is short for 'obiit', meaning 'she or he died'.)
Looking at my family tree, I could see that my great-great-great-great grandfather Thomas Estlin was buried on the 3rd September 1776 at St Mary's, Hinckley, Leicestershire. I next looked at Find A Grave, and discovered from the memorial inscription that his date of death matched exactly, as did his age:
"To the memory of Thomas Estlin who died August 31, 1776 aged 54. Elizabeth his wife who died May 5, 1789 aged 65. Thomas son of Rev. John Prior Estlin of Bristol and grandson of the said Thomas and Elizabeth Estlin died November 4, 1778 aged 2 years"
Very excited, my sister and I drove to Salisbury for the auction, and managed to bid successfully.
The ring – probably sized for a woman - might have been made for Thomas's wife, Elizabeth née Prior, although it could possibly have been for his son John's wife. Thomas & Elizabeth were married on 25 Mar 1745 at Swithland, Leicestershire
Thomas Estlin was a hosier, so I looked to see if his will was in the National Archives. It was! (And the download fee is very reasonable compared to that required for BMD certificates!)
"Thomas Estlin of Hinckley in the county of Leicestershire, Hosier, being of sound mind …….. but in consideration of the great expense I have been at in my son John Prior Estlin's education I only give him out 5 guineas to buy him a mourning ring."
Very interesting to find a mourning ring specifically mentioned in his will - even if I could not understand why it read "buy him a mourning ring."
Presumably the second date inscribed on the ring is for M Bowles, but I have been unable to trace him or her. If the inscription has been interpreted correctly, the age of 5 or 6 at death suggests a grandchild, so I looked for marriages of daughters to a Bowles, but nothing came up, and there are no Bowles burials at the right time at St Mary's, Hinckley.
What a wonderful discovery – a once in a lifetime opportunity! Richard is so lucky to have found the ring, but it wasn't all down to good fortune – he had taken the precaution of expressing his interest in the Estlin surname, which meant that he was automatically notified when the ring was put up for auction.
Regular readers will recall the story of the 180 year-old sampler that I bought at auction, and how I tracked down descendants of the girl's family. Sadly there won’t always be someone like me prepared to give up their time and risk their money – so follow Richard's example, and do what you can to track down your own heirlooms!
Note: if you can't resist trying to identify the mysterious M Bowles, you'll find that Findmypast has Leicestershire parish registers. But please don’t write to me – post any discoveries, clues, or comments on the LostCousins Forum. If you've been invited to join there will be a link and a code on your My Summary page, and if you haven't been invited yet, it's because you haven't added sufficient entries to your My Ancestors page – the forum is reserved for members who are doing everything they can to support the LostCousins project to connect cousins around the world.
I'm grateful to MJ Lee, author of the Jayne Sinclair series of genealogical mysteries for introducing me to a new Dickens character – Charles Dickens, the magician! I was so fascinated to discover something completely new about one of the world's most famous authors that I invited MJ Lee to write an article that I could share with you…..
We all know Charles Dickens was a magician with words. His novels such as 'David Copperfield', 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Oliver Twist' are famous throughout the world. But it was only when I was researching his most famous novel, 'A Christmas Carol', for my own genealogical mystery story that I realised he was also a conjurer, a trickster, and an unparalleled magician.
Dickens discovered his love of magic around the same time he was writing his best-known Christmas book, even going so far as to purchase the stock-in-trade of a renowned magician and using it to perform his tricks at a Christmas party in 1843 (the same year 'A Christmas Carol' was published).
According to Jayne Carlyle, Thomas Carlyle’s wife, who attended the Christmas party, Dickens was a remarkably good performer. She wrote to her cousin:
“Dickens and Forster above all exerted themselves till the perspiration was pouring down and they seemed drunk with their efforts! Only think of that excellent Dickens playing the conjuror for one whole hour — the best conjuror I ever saw — (and I have paid money to see several) — and Forster acting as his servant! This part of the entertainment concluded with a plum pudding made out of raw flour, raw eggs — all the raw usual ingredients — boiled in a gentleman’s hat — and tumbled out reeking — all in one minute before the eyes of the astonished children, and astonished grown people! That trick — and his other of changing ladies’ pocket handkerchiefs into comfits — and a box full of bran into a box full of — a live-guinea-pig! would enable him to make a handsome subsistence lest the book-seller trade go as it please!”
Fortunately for us, the bookseller trade for Dickens went from strength to strength in the 1840s, but he continued to perform throughout as a magician. He even went on stage, adopting the name Rhia Rhama Rhoos, “The Unparalleled Necromance”, and claimed to have been “educated cabalistically in the Orange Groves of Salamanca”.
He was proud of his magic, “…if you could see me conjuring the company’s watches into impossible tea caddies, and causing pieces of money to fly, and burning pocket handkerchiefs without hurting ‘em…you would never forget it as long as you live.”
Magic, although of a more supernatural variety, played an important part in 'A Christmas Carol'. The main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is magically transported by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come to see his life and a possible, rather unhappy future. He comes to the realisation that the single-minded pursuit of money is a thankless and unrewarding endeavour. Only through kindness and charity to others can he make the world a better place and see a better future for himself. A philosophy which chimed with Dickens’ own views on life.
A similar realisation is also achieved by my genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, as she investigates the genealogy of a man mentioned in a hand-written inscription on a first edition of 'A Christmas Carol'. Through the censuses, rent books and letters of Victorian Manchester, she discovers his identity and his present day family.
The inspiration for my novel came when I purchased an old book published in the 1890s from a second-hand bookstore. Inside was a bookplate indicating it had been given as a prize at a Sunday School in 1893. Intrigued, I was able to discover this young woman’s life story using genealogical research techniques (with a lot of help from the Census and a well-known genealogy website!!).
Researching family history can give us insight not only into the lives of our ancestors but also of other people, even those whose sole claim to fame was to be awarded a prize at Sunday School or to be included in an inscription.
I think that’s the magic of genealogy; to discover the lives and loves of those forgotten by history, but remembered as what they were to us — mums and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.
A magic that I’m sure Charles Dickens would have loved as much as being a conjurer.
From the magic of Dickens to the magic of genealogy. And I'm delighted to say that because it's Christmas MJ Lee is making his latest book available in the UK for just 99p in Kindle format – though only until 15th December.
You'll find my review and links here. Enjoy!
In January 1649 fifty-nine men signed the warrant that condemned King Charles to die on the executioner's block, and whilst nobody knows for sure who wielded the axe, there's no doubt about the identity of the men whose signatures led to the killing of the King.
Six years ago I reviewed Killers of the King by Charles Spencer, brother of Princess Diana, and uncle to Prince William. At first I didn’t think I was going to find this new book as interesting, but the more I read of Charles I's Executioners, by James Hobson, the more compelling I found it.
Each chapter introduces us to a handful of regicides who had something in common: we learn about their origins, some humble, many less so; we learn about their religious beliefs, which were quite wide-ranging and often incompatible with those of their fellow revolutionaries. We learn about their prowess, or lack of it, on the battlefield: some were courageous, others were cowards; some waged war in a gentlemanly fashion, others were cruel and vicious, slaughtering prisoners and going against the rules of war. (The First Civil War seems to have been a more civil war than the Second Civil War.)
We also learn what the regicides' fate was: some died before the Restoration, some escaped to the Continent, some escaped but were caught and brought back to England, some handed themselves in, hoping that this would secure them or their families more favourable treatment (it usually didn't).
For anyone who thinks the English Civil War was Oliver Cromwell versus King Charles, this book will be an eye-opener. True, Oliver Cromwell eventually took charge, but there were others whose contributions were equally significant; Henry Ireton, who – unlike Cromwell - gets a whole chapter all to himself, might well have been the name we remember had he not fallen ill and died in November 1651.
Some readers will, I suspect, discover a previously unknown connection to one of the regicides – most seem to have been married with children, and 350 years on they must have tens or hundreds of thousands of descendants.
If you'd like to know more about the people who fought on the side of Parliament in the Civil War, and understand their motivations, this book is well worth reading. (As usual you can support LostCousins by using the relevant link below – even if you end up buying something completely different!)
I doubt there has been any time in the history of the world when there has been a greater focus on the safety and efficacy of medications, so the release of this book, written by two retired pharmacists is timely.
There's so much in this book – it may only be 300 or so pages, but it's absolutely crammed with information about the potions and lotions, medicines and medications from prehistory to the modern day. It's remarkable how many ancient remedies are still used today, even though our ancestor's had a very poor understanding of the workings of the human body, and an even worse conception of how diseases were spread.
There are some details that were of less interest to me than others – the distinction between pills and tablets isn't something that I could get excited about, although it did lead to a number of patent disputes in the later 19th century. Much more interesting, for me at least, was the history behind modern medicines – antibiotics in particular. It was also fascinating to discover that Donald Trump wasn't the first World leader to take a new drug – in December 1943 Winston Churchill fell ill with pneumonia, and was treated with sulfapyridine, one of the first antibiotics. Sulfapyridine, also known as M&B 693, was produced by the British company May & Baker, whose Dagenham premises I passed many times in my youth.
Although most people think of penicillin as the first antibiotic, it was preceded by Salvarsan, which had been developed in Germany in the years before the Great War as a treatment for syphilis, though unfortunately the disease soon developed resistant strains.
Reading the history of the drugs we use today it's remarkable how much progress has been made in the past century, and how little in the preceding millennia. I was also surprised to learn that cholera arrived in Britain as recently as 1831 – just 23 years before John Snow's analysis which demonstrated that cholera was transmitted by the contamination of drinking water.
Some of the remedies seem rather quaint – the Asthma Cigarettes advertised in the magazine article above are a case in point (copyright image used by permission of the British Newspaper Archive). First developed in India during the 18th century, by the end of the 19th century several asthma remedies were available which used pipes or cigarettes.
Another interesting anecdote revealed the origins of Addis, familiar in my youth as manufacturers of plastic housewares, and still around today. The business was founded by William Addis, who fashioned his first toothbrush from a bone in 1780 when he was in prison – a detail that is somehow omitted from the history on the company’s own website!
I doubt that anyone will read every single word of this encyclopaedic volume – even I found some of the detail too abstruse for my liking – but the authors clearly know their subject. I now understand why so many of my antecedents died from illnesses that have long since been eradicated or conquered – tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid, polio, measles, and scarlet fever are just a few that spring to mind. Let's hope that the family historians of the future are able to say the same about COVID-19!
When Beatrix Potter came up with the name Peter for her loveable scamp of a rabbit she clearly wasn't thinking of me, but perhaps some of that rabbit rubbed off onto me - as a youngster I was so inquisitive that nothing would have kept me out of Mr McGregor's garden.
Nadia Cohen's biography, The Real Beatrix Potter, tells the story of a daughter who wasn't allowed to grow up – even when she was a successful children's author her parents continued to control her life, preventing her from going out on her own, and forbidding her from marrying the love of her life. All that they wanted of her was to make a 'good' marriage – all that she wanted was to explore nature, paint, and write stories about animals.
Helen Beatrix Potter was named after her mother but, like her younger brother Walter Bertram, always known by middle name. Although he was 5 years younger, Bertram was one of her greatest supporters in her struggle to escape the shackles of her parents.
Beatrix Potter never attended school – she had a succession of governesses who taught her at home, in the top floor nursery. But it wasn't long before she knew more than they did, at least in the subjects that were of most interest.
Her first book was published privately after every publisher turned it down – including Frederick Warnes and Co. Just 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit were printed, and quickly sold to friends and relatives for the princely sum of 1s 2d each. A further 200 copies were printed, and they too sold out – and just as she was considering a third print run she was approached by Warnes, who having seen a copy of the published book had revised their opinion.
For once her father supported her, using his legal training to negotiate a good contract on Beatrix's behalf – though if he had known what it would lead to, I suspect he would have thought twice. After that nothing could hold back Beatrix's writing career, but her parents continued to exert their well-meaning, but malign influence for the rest of their lives.
Beatrix Potter wasn't just a children's author and illustrator – she was also an early environmentalist, and a leading supporter of the National Trust, which was co-founded by her friend Canon Hardwicke Rawnsely.
Once she gained her financial independence she bought farms and farmland in the Lake District and found friendship, and perhaps love, finally marrying quietly at the age of 47 to the solicitor who acted for her in one of those property purchases. (Newspaper report courtesy of British Newspaper Archive; All Rights Reserved)
All three of the books I've reviewed in this newsletter would make good Christmas presents for yourself, but this book in particular would make a wonderful present for friends and relatives. I read the paperback, but there is also a Kindle edition, though at £7.19 it's not that much cheaper (Amazon.co.uk sell the paperback at £10.99).
Julian recently subscribed to the British Newspaper Archive, but got more then he bargained for:
"Peter's newsletter of 27 November offered a 25% saving on a British Newspaper Archive subscription. I had reached the point where BMD and census records were no longer revealing any surprises, so I took out a three-month subscription. Within half an hour, I had discovered some fascinating facts about my father, and also a mention of his father (my grandfather).
"My father, Jack, was born in Belgium in 1904 and died in 1994. He first appears in British records in 1919, when his family were admitted to a workhouse. I knew that he never married my mother although they were together for over 50 years (yes, I know what that makes me!). I suspected he was a bit of a ladies' man, but what I found out next was a complete surprise.
"A newspaper article from 1930 came up in the search. There was no doubt it was my dad who was involved: he pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to a charge of bigamy!
"Jack's father spoke in his defence at the trial. The main thrust of the defence was that Jack's wife had been certified insane, and was in a mental institution - therefore, Jack was free to remarry. The Recorder conducting the trial took into account that Jack was a foreigner, not acquainted with English law, and let him off lightly.
"I already knew of a marriage in 1927, but the couple had split up by 1931 when my biological parents got together. Now, there is a new 'wife' I had never heard of, and the possibility of half-siblings from that relationship. A whole new area of research has opened up. I have since found a record of the illegal 'marriage', where a (deliberate?) misspelling of my dad's surname was used. I will now spend many a happy hour searching through the newspaper archives for mention of my other relatives, and following up on any interesting stories I find."
I wrote recently about the couple who became Mr & Mrs White-Christmas when they married, which inspired Susan to post a message on the LostCousins forum about this couple:
© Reproduced courtesy of the Essex Record Office. All Rights Reserved.
Frederick Kiss marrying Maria Death – you couldn't make it up! Many thanks to Essex Record Office for allowing me to include the register image (the marriage took place at St Martin's, in Colchester).
There haven't been many good news stories this year, so to read about the generosity of 900 customers at a drive-thru ice cream parlor in Minnesota was heart-warming (you'll find the news report here).
It reminded me that when we add entries to our My Ancestors page we know that that fewer than 1 in 10 of those entries will produce an immediate match with a cousin. But we do it anyway, because we're 'paying it forward', creating entries that our own cousins will match with in the future.
That's why I wanted my New Year Competition to start before Christmas, a time when we are reminded that it is better to give than to receive.
If you live in Britain there's a first class opportunity to save money – on 1st January the cost of 1st Class stamps is going up from 76p to 85p, a 12% increase. Just make sure that the stamps you buy don't show their monetary value, for example:
That book of 12 stamps costs £9.12 this month, but will cost £10.20 next month. 2nd Class stamps are also going up, but only from 65p to 66p, a modest increase by comparison.
I'm still using stamps that I bought 10 years ago at around half their current price – a return of 100% in a decade might not impress financiers or chancers, but there aren’t many safe investments that pay off so handsomely. Hopefully some of you followed my advice at the time.
Incidentally, if you can't read the date on a postcard or letter you've inherited checking the amount paid in postage might help – postage rates since the introduction of the Penny Black in 1840 can be found here. I notice that by the time I was born in 1950 the cost of sending a letter had increased only from 1d to 2½d (about 1p in decimal currency) in those 110 years, but in the 70 years since it has gone up to the equivalent of 13s (65p) for 2nd Class letters, and it will soon be 17s (85p) for 1st Class!
Note: in the late 1950s my first paid 'job' was delivering leaflets for the shop over the road – I was paid 9d for every 100 houses I delivered to. Mind you, as my pocket money was only 6d a week (and 2d of that went in the collection plate on Sunday), it seemed like a fortune!
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 very soon with more news and stories from the world of genealogy – I've just run out of space (and out of puff!). In the meantime, stay safe – and add as many relatives as you can to your My Ancestors page!
© Copyright 2020 Peter Calver
Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.