Newsletter – 10th December 2021
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 26th 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):
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The provisions for registering births and deaths are in the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926, the Registration Service Act 1953, and the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987. The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 is a consolidation of legislation dating back to 1836 and provides for a paper-based system.
You may recall that the Coronavirus Act 2020 amended the legislation to temporarily enable documentation to be transmitted electronically relating to the registration of deaths, however there is currently no provision to transmit the documentation for the registration, re-registration or correction of a birth electronically. The Births and Deaths Registration (Electronic Communications and Electronic Storage) Order 2021, which came into effect on 1st December, facilitates the use of electronic communications and storage, enabling the documentation required when registering a birth or death to be transmitted in an approved electronic form. You will find the Order here, but this explanatory memorandum (in PDF format) is much easier to follow.
Looking through past issues of this newsletter I notice that in the Christmas Day 2014 edition I reported that Baroness Scott had put forward in the House of Lords a proposal for electronic birth, marriage, and death certificates – and two months later came the good news that the Government had decided to endorse the change. This eventually led to the GRO's PDF trials, as a result of which we can now obtain PDF copies of historic birth and death register entries for just £7, which is around the cost of paper certificates when I started researching two decades ago.
Going back further through the archives I found the August 2008 newsletter in which I reported the abandonment of the GRO's project to digitise their historic BMD registers:
BMD project collapses
For several years the General Register Office has been working on a major project to digitise birth, marriage, and death records - and this could have provided England & Wales with an equivalent to the online registers at Scotlandspeople.
The controversial closure of the Family Records Centre in Islington was partly justified by these forthcoming changes - but now the private contractor responsible for implementation has withdrawn "by mutual consent", and it isn't clear when, or if, the project will re-start.
As we now know, the project never did recommence, but thankfully a good proportion of the birth and death registers had already been digitised, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to order PDF copies today. Not only is it a useful cost-saving, there's also a time-saving, especially for family historians who live outside the UK. We also benefit from birth and death indexes which provide more information than the original quarterly indexes – they're not perfect, and the search isn't as flexible as it could be, but they've enabled me to fill in lots of gaps in the 19th century section of my tree.
Last year wasn't a normal year, and 2021 has been equally challenging, so I've decided to once again start this year's competition early. As usual there is an amazing array 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', and tell other family historians about the opportunities that LostCousins offers.
(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 the winner of the top prize in a previous competition!)
Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page between 10th December 2021 and midnight (London time) on Monday 31st January 2022 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 someone who shares your ancestry, but isn’t a direct ancestor (eg your ancestors' siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins).
This year there will be more prize winners than ever before, and for the first time you'll be able to win more than one prize! That's because I'm going to be giving away prizes during the competition period, as well as at the end - so the sooner you start adding relatives, the more chances you'll have of winning.
Also new this year is the My Prizes page at the LostCousins website, which lists the prizes on offer and allows you to express your preferences – this doesn’t guarantee that you'll get the prize that you want, but it does mean that you won’t be offered a prize that you don't want (because you will only be considered for prizes that you have rated). The My Prizes page will be updated as new prizes are added, so it's worth checking now and again to see what else is 'up for grabs'.
This year the competition is moving into the 21st century with several prizes that take advantage of Zoom to provide unique experiences and opportunities – from one-to-one consultations with experts, to exclusive presentations with a small audience so that everyone who wants to can ask a question. Here are just some of the prizes on offer – there will be more in the next issue of the newsletter, but you can also check your My Prizes page for updates between issues:
STAR PRIZE: One-to-one brick wall busting session with the editor of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine
Most of you will know Sarah Williams as the editor of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine – but she is also a highly competent genealogist with a Masters degree in Medieval Studies. I'm delighted to say that Sarah has generously offered to help knock down an English 'brick wall' for the lucky winner of this prize.
This one-to-one consultation will take place over Zoom on a mutually convenient date, and whilst there's no guarantee that Sarah will be able to solve your problem during the session, I'd be surprised if her insight into your 'brick wall' doesn’t lead you in a new and more productive direction. To maximise your chance of winning this valuable opportunity add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page before Christmas, as the winner of this prize will be chosen on Christmas Day.
Tip: only one lucky member can win this prize or the one below but everyone can benefit from the advice in my Masterclass 'Knocking down brick walls' which was recently updated and can be found here. (Note: that there are links to ALL of my Masterclasses on the Subscribers Only page.)
STAR PRIZE: One-to-one brick wall busting session with Dr Janet Few, author and genealogist
Janet is an experienced and qualified family, social, and community historian who has spoken at many national and international genealogical events. She is also a well-known author, several of whose books have been reviewed in this very newsletter, including Putting Your Ancestors in Their Place. A founder member of the Society for One-Place Studies, and a former Chair and Vice-Chair of the organisation, she is currently Chair of Devon Family History Society.
Janet has kindly volunteered to provide a one-to-one 'brick wall' busting Zoom consultation on a mutually-convenient date for one lucky member. If you have a English 'brick wall' in your family tree, Janet will suggest productive areas of research so that in 2021 you'll be able to approach the problem from a different angle.
To maximise your chance of gaining this valuable opportunity to transform your research add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page before the end of December, as the winner will be chosen on New Year's Day.
STAR PRIZE: 12 month Diamond subscription to The Genealogist (normal price £139.95)
You could win unlimited access to a wide range of records including non-conformist records, exclusive tithe records and tithe maps, and a growing collection of 'Lloyd George' Domesday records and maps which you won't find at any other site. If you already have a Diamond subscription an additional 12 months will be added.
The prize winner will be chosen after the competition closes on 31st January 2022, but if you can't wait (or are looking to buy yourself a Christmas present) the good news is that the Black Friday offer I wrote about in the last newsletter is still continuing, so you can currently get a Diamond subscription for the price of a Gold subscription (and much more besides) if you follow this link.
STAR PRIZE: 12 month unlimited subscription to British Newspaper Archive (normal price £79.95)
Over 46 million pages from historic British and Irish newspapers, with hundreds of thousands more pages added every month. Upwards of half a billion articles, notices, and adverts, and literally billions of names. Was your ancestor famous for 15 minutes?
Optimised search features include the ability to search for articles added after a particular date, so that you don't have to repeatedly trawl through articles you've previously read or discarded. The prize winner will be chosen after the competition closes on 31st January 2022.
SPECIAL PRIZE: Scottish Research Resources Before 1800 with Chris Paton (mid-January, date to be confirmed)
Do you have Scottish ancestors? In this talk Chris Paton, author and professional genealogist will Zoom you to pre-19th century Scotland, when things begin to get a little more complicated with your ancestral research. From Kirk to state, a variety of records are available but it's one thing to find them, and quite another to understand them, with different handwriting styles, language problems and the feudal nature of Scottish society forming some of the many challenges that make earlier Scottish research fun but challenging.
Chris will explore the various record types available, and how to access them both online and offline. This exclusive Zoom presentation in front of a select audience will be followed by a question and answer session in which all are invited to participate. To maximise your chances of being one of the lucky few to attend, add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page bearing in mind that the winners will be selected about a week before the talk takes place.
SPECIAL PRIZE: Seminar on marriage law with Professor Rebecca Probert (date to be confirmed)
Many of you will already be familiar with Professor Probert's books for genealogists (you'll find my reviews here and here), but even if you haven't read the books you'll know, I'm sure, that she is the leading authority on historical marriage law in England & Wales. Her books have over-turned numerous myths about the ways our ancestors married, shedding new light on their behaviour and the sometimes difficult decisions they were faced with.
Currently Professor of Law at Exeter University, in 2015 she was seconded to the Law Commission to work on their scoping paper Getting Married and since August 2019 she has been acting as specialist advisor to the Commission on their Weddings Project.
This exclusive Zoom presentation in front of a small invited audience will be followed by a question and answer session in which all are invited to participate. To maximise your chances of being one of the lucky few to attend add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page.
SPECIAL PRIZE: Nathan Dylan Goodwin interview followed by Q&A session (date to be confirmed)
I'll be interviewing Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the creator of the Forensic Genealogist series featuring Morton Farrier, live on Zoom – and you could be in the audience! Amongst other things I'll be asking questions about the characters in the books, and where the inspiration for them came from.
After the interview I'll be inviting questions from the floor – note that the number of attendees will be kept low so that as many people as possible have the chance to ask their question. However you can also submit questions on the My Prizes page – that way your question could get asked even if you’re not fortunate enough to be invited.
To maximise your chances of being one of the lucky few to attend, add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page – and don't leave it to the last minute, because this is an opportunity that no fan of Morton Farrier will want to miss!
Note: you'll find my review of Nathan's latest book here.
SPECIAL PRIZE: Secrets of the census with Dr Donald Davis (date to be confirmed)
Speaking to us from Canada will be Dr Donald Davis, who retired from a vocation studying the health of populations to an avocation exploring population records – he is currently looking forward to the release of the 1921 England & Wales Census which, taken following the Great War, explored new avenues of importance to family historians.
When the previous census (1911) was released we saw for the first time the forms that our ancestors had filled in, replete with misunderstandings, spelling mistakes, amendments, and gratuitous comments. This was eye-opening – all that had survived from the 1841-1901 censuses were the enumerators' summary books. Or so it was thought – then Don discovered a cache of household schedules from the 1841 Census at Shropshire Archives and many of our assumptions about the census were overturned.
SPECIAL PRIZE: DNA for Christmas – exploring the possibilities of DNA with Peter Calver (4pm Wednesday 22nd December)
DNA is part of the legacy that we have inherited, and it's also part of the legacy that we can pass on to future generations. In this easy-to-follow Zoom presentation I'll explain why DNA is important to family historians and how to make the most of it. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers, so whether you are a sceptic or disciple, it's a great opportunity to find out what DNA can and can't do, and the pitfalls that await the unwary.
The date has been chosen so that members in Britain will have time to take advantage of the 25% discount on Ancestry DNA which ends on 26th December – click here to take advantage of the offer and support LostCousins at the same time). Remember that you don’t need to decide in advance who is going to be testing. Attendees will be selected and notified over the weekend preceding the talk, so please aim to complete your My Ancestors page during the coming week.
By the way, that's not me in the photo: it's said to be Robert Wells, my great-great grandfather, who was born in the year that Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Three of his grandsons were called Frederick Wells – one rose to become Lord Mayor of London, one worked in the docks and the third was my grandfather, who toiled as a boilermaker for the same firm all his working life, retiring on a pension of just £1 week in the year that his cousin paraded through the streets of London in a gold coach led by marching bands. You can see the Pathé News footage here – it may have been a time of austerity, but they still pulled all the stops out!
More prizes than ever before, more opportunities to listen to experts and ask questions, a chance to virtually meet your favourite author of genealogical mysteries or knock down a 'brick wall' with the help of an expert genealogist – who'd want to go to Christmas parties and risk infection when you can achieve so much in the safety of your own home?
Remember, ALL you need to do to enter is add relatives to your My Ancestors page, and indicate on your My Prizes page which prizes you would most like to win. Look out for even more prizes in the next issue of the LostCousins newsletter, but remember that the best prize of all is to connect with the other members who are researching your ancestors, and that's a prize that everyone can win!
The more LostCousins members there are, the more potential connections there are between family historians who are researching the same ancestral lines. So to encourage you to invite the family historians you know to join LostCousins I'm offering a bonus – if you invite a new member to join, either by using your My Referrals page to send them an individual invite, or by giving them your personal referral link, shown on your My Summary page, and they win a prize in this year's competition, I'll give you a free one-year LostCousins subscription (maximum 5 bonus subscriptions per member). You don’t need to know someone's email address or even their name to invite them to join, nor do you need to claim your bonus – but of course you do need to encourage the new member to complete their My Ancestors page, otherwise they won’t have any chance of winning a prize.
Note: please don't invite people who are not researching their family tree and have no plans to do so – it would be counter-productive.
Last week the National Archives announced that there will be free access to the England & Wales 1921 Census at two regional hubs, Manchester Central Library and the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth; it had previously been revealed that there would be free access at the National Archives in Kew, in west London.
If you are planning to make a special trip to one of those three locations I suggest you check in advance whether you can book a place – I suspect that demand will exceed supply, and you certainly wouldn't want to make a wasted journey.
Where in the US did they go?
There's a book in the Library of Congress which has population maps based on the US 1880 census (the main one we use at LostCousins). For each country of origin they show the proportion of inhabitants born in that country recorded in each of the 46 states, for example the states with the highest proportion from Ireland were Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island:
Other maps show immigrants from England & Wales, Germany, France and Scotland. You can find this useful resource here (the Table of Contents is on page 7).
Most of us don't have the time to research all of the branches of our tree – our time is taken up researching our direct ancestors. But branches are important because ALL of our living cousins are descended from the branches of our tree – so we can’t collaborate with the researchers who share our ancestors if we completely ignore the branches.
Note: whether a line on a family tree represents a branch or a direct line depends on who you are – what's a direct line to you is a branch to your cousin, and vice versa. It's only when you work backwards from your common ancestors that your direct lines coincide.
As a LostCousins member you have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with experienced family historians who are researching the same ancestral lines – your 'lost cousins'. However, you’re unlikely to find them if the only households you enter from the 1881 Census are the ones where your direct ancestors are living – you need to spread the net wider by including your ancestors' cousins.
A simple but effective strategy is to start with the relatives you know about in 1841 (whether you can find them on that census or not), then track each branch and twig through the censuses until you get to 1881. For relatives in England & Wales the process is a lot easier than it used to be now that we have access to GRO birth indexes which give the mother's maiden name from 1837 onwards. Why? Because tracking female relatives on the censuses is complicated by the fact that when they marry they generally take their husband's surname.
No, that isn't a misprint – there was a British census in 1831, but the data collected was very limited compared with later censuses, and with relatively few exceptions the census schedules haven't survived. However some of the surviving records are online, and you'll find a few at Ancestry and others at Findmypast.
The records at Ancestry are for the Harrow area, and as I worked in Harrow for 20 years and lived there for much of that time I couldn't resist taking a look – however they're hidden amongst their collection of London Poor Law records, and to find them you'll need to browse the collection as shown in the screenshot on the right.
Incidentally, I was told about these records by Sarah Williams, editor of Who Do You Think Are? magazine - you can see why I had no hesitation inviting her to knock down the 'brick wall' of a lucky LostCousins member in this year's competition (see the article above).
I used to live in Harrow Weald, so I started with that enumeration district: the first record I looked at was for the household of one Joseph Hill, a farmer:
© Image copyright London Metropolitan Archives; All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Ancestry.
The comment on the form, presumably written by the enumerator, is pretty damning: "Joe you ought to be ashamed of yourself to enter your people in this manner". Mind you, the form is quite complicated to fill in, so I'm not surprised Joe got confused.
As you can see, in 1831 the names of the members of the household weren't asked for, though some of the surviving records do give this information.
This extremely well-researched blog post by Dave Annal of Lifelines Research explains why some parish register entries can be very difficult to find. It's well worth taking the time to read this analysis by someone who, as a professional genealogist and former Principal Family History Specialist at The National Archives, really knows what he's talking about.
During December the Australian state of Victoria is cutting the price of downloadable uncertified historic 'certificates' by $5 to $15, which is only slightly more than the cost of a PDF from the GRO in England. To take advantage of this down under pricing please follow this link.
Readers of this newsletter are almost all experienced family historians, so you won't be surprised when I tell you that although censuses tend to understate the actual age of most adults, those who reached 'a ripe old age' tended to add on years, rather than take them away. Even in the 21st century the phenomenon hasn't gone away, because of the tendency for someone in their 70s or 80s to say that they're in their 8th or 9th decade – which makes them seem even more venerable.
I recently realised that even though I'm only just 71, I could argue that I'm now living in my 9th decade. Can you work out how I might do this?
British trains are notorious for their inability to adapt to the seasons: hot weather causes points to jam in the summer, leaves on the line disrupt services in the autumn, whilst the wrong sort of snow can cause chaos in winter. In recent years several regional rail companies have struggled to provide an acceptable service and South Western Railway was stripped of its franchise in December 2020. Mind you, things were a lot worse in the 19th century as you can see from this press cutting, taken from the Eastern Daily Press dated 13th March 1891 (Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – used by kind permission of Findmypast).
As you can see, the South Western train which had left Paddington Station in London at 3pm on the afternoon if Monday 9th March was still stuck in a snowdrift 3 days later, despite the combined efforts of 300 navvies who were doing their best to clear a way.
In this case Friday 13th turned out to be their lucky day – the train did eventually arrive at Plymouth, its intended destination, at 9.30 that morning, though I can imagine that the passengers were in need of medical care – and what about the poor navvies who had to dig them out?
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – but I'm actually talking about the canned meat, which has apparently had record sales for the 7th year in a row (see this BBC article). As a child I had to eat 'pork luncheon meat', but I wouldn't dream of putting it on the menu these days – would you?
There was good and bad news from Downing Street this week; on Thursday morning Carrie Johnson gave birth to a daughter, her second child with Boris, the British Prime Minister – but the previous evening there had been a press conference at No.10 in which he announced that because the Omicron variant was spreading fast he would be implementing Plan B. This included advice to work from home as far as possible, a legal requirement for COVID passes for admission to night clubs and some other venues, and compulsory mask-wearing in many indoor environments where it has previously been optional.
Christmas parties need not be cancelled – at least, that's the official advice, but I suspect a lot of people will weigh up the risks and choose not to attend. Unfortunately the mainstream media are focusing more on parties that may or may not have taken place last year, and may or may not have infringed guidelines – they seem not to realise that their hell-bent pursuit of a story could lead to lower compliance and a higher death toll.
If you attended Professor Probert's Zoom talk on Wednesday you'll know that the topic of illegal marriages popped up more than once, so it's a timely moment to write about a famous bigamist, one who is more usually known for her popularisation of prawn cocktail and pizza in post-war Britain.
As a child I used to love watching the TV cook Fanny Cradock, though it was her husband Johnnie who was the real star of the programme – for me at least. And when I say husband, I'm using the term loosely – he was presented as her husband, but they didn't go through a marriage ceremony until she heard in 1977 that her second husband had died. Arthur Chapman was a Catholic who had refused to consent to a divorce, even though they had split up within a year of their marriage in 1928. Fanny's first husband Sidney Evans had died in a plane crash just months after their marriage in October 1926 – Fanny was just 17 at the time. Despite the brevity of these two marriages, each produced a son, though neither was brought up by their mother.
However, as in the case of Mark Twain, the news of Arthur's death was exaggerated – in fact he didn't die until 1978, which meant that Fanny had unwittingly married bigamously. However she wasn't as innocent as you might think – she had married bigamously at the start of WW2, just three days before the 1939 Register was compiled on 29th September. Her third 'husband' Gregory Holden-Dye was, according to Wikipedia, a minor racing driver, though that isn't quite what it says in the 1939 Register:
I'm assuming that I've found the right entry – it's not exactly a common name – and I can't find Fanny at all in 1939. Can you?
My wife has pointed out that Suttons are currently offering 425 Spring Bulbs for £10 (reduced from £32.99) when you follow this link.
Do please take the time to complete your My Ancestors page, not just so that you can win a prize, but so that you can collaborate with your cousins and take your research into your ancestors to new heights. None of us can possibly research every ancestral line – with each generation the number doubles – so joining forces with your 'lost cousins' makes perfect sense!
© 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.