Newsletter - 13th April 2020
LAST CHANCE: save 20% on Findmypast subscriptions ENDS TUESDAY???
LAST CHANCE: connect to your 'lost cousins' ENDS WEDNESDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 7th April) 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!
Britain has a tradition of coming together when times are tough, and this article by Julia Hobsbawn on CNN explains how concern for our Prime Minster's health has overcome political differences.
Lockdown extended - Easter competition extended BREAKING NEWS
As I was finalising this newsletter I took time out to watch the Downing Street Press Conference, which confirmed for the first time that the lockdown that has already been in effect across the UK for 3 weeks will not be lifted when it is reviewed later this week.
Although this is no great surprise to me, as I've been following the statistics and reading the research papers as they have been published, I know there will be a few who were hopeful that there would be some relaxation.
In the circumstances I've decided to extend the Easter Egg Competition until at least the end of April. Most of the 100 prizes on offer have yet to be won, including the top prize of $1000 (or £1000 or Ä1000) - so there is every reason to enter more relatives from 1881 so that you can connect with more of your 'lost cousins'.
Talking of statistics, whilst many LostCousins members have entered hundreds or even thousands of relatives from 1881, there are others who arenít pulling their weight. I calculated this week that if every reader of this newsletter living in the UK who has entered fewer than 100 relatives from 1881 were to bring their total up to 100, there would be over 150,000 'lost cousins' found - which is more than have been found in the entire 16 year history of LostCousins.
Or, to put it another way, if you all pull together it would take each of you less than one hour to achieve more than I have achieved in 16 years. And that's without the contribution of our many members outside the UK, who may not have direct ancestors on the 1881 Census, but would in most cases be able to find numerous cousins.
This is a good opportunity to remind you that because ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, it's by starting as early as you can, then tracing your branches through to 1881, that you're going to maximise the number of 'lost cousins' you find (and give yourself the best chance of winning one of the prizes in the competition).
A week ago I suggested that register offices should allow births and deaths to be registered online, and coincidentally the Isle of Man government has passed an emergency order to implement exactly this! You can find out more here.
Meanwhile in England it has been revealed that currently only 7% of GP appointments are now face to face - the others take place over the telephone or using online video-conferencing. You can read more in this BBC article.
That's two professions dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century - I wonder who will be next?
I'm often asked how I can run LostCousins single-handedly, but still find the time to respond to every email from a member - even though there are now over 68,000 members on the mailing list for this newsletter.
There are three key factors that make this possible: one is the simple design of the LostCousins website, with relevant advice shown on each of the main pages; this means that members don't have to remember what to do - the information is right there in front of them (you may need to click a Help icon to see it).
The second is the Frequently Asked Questions page, which incorporates answers to all the questions I was asked in the early years (when the membership was much smaller). These days there are very few queries that arise which havenít been asked before, so when a member writes to me I'm usually able to point them in the direction of the relevant FAQ.
And the third factor? It's you - in my experience LostCousins members are smarter and more courteous than the average Internet user (I guess that itís hard to be a successful family historian if you donít have those qualities). Consequently most members are able to figure things out without ever troubling me, which is greatly appreciated.
But please DO get in touch when you need to. I feel really bad on the rare occasions when I get an email from a member who has spent hours trying to figure something out, whether at LostCousins or one of the sites that members use as a source of census information. Do please look at the FAQs page first, but if you're still struggling after 15 minutes, send me an email.
Tip: when you write to me please use a descriptive title for the email - I judge which emails need urgent attention by looking at the titles.
LAST CHANCE: save 20% on Findmypast subscriptions ENDS TUESDAY???
Although supposed to end at midnight on Tuesday 14th April, the offer was still live on Wednesday morning, so get in quick if you want to take advantage of Findmypast's Easter offer of a 20% discount on 12 month subscriptions at their UK site AND secure yourself a free LostCousins subscription when you use my link to purchase a Plus or Pro subscription and ensure that your purchase will be tracked (by following the advice here).
The good news is that so far EVERYONE who has followed the advice has qualified for a free LostCousins subscription!
Tip: you do NOT need to register with Findmypast, even if you previously registered at a different Findmypast site. So donít fill in the form headed Letís get you signed up unless you've never used Findmypast before; instead look to the bottom right of the form for Already signed up? and click the Log-in icon just below.
I'm always amazed to discover experienced family historians who have never used Findmypast, not least because you can sign-up for a 14-day free trial (though sadly, but understandably, only once).
Searching at Findmypast is ALWAYS FREE (though you will need to register if you haven't done so previously), and quite a lot of information is revealed by the search results - it isnít obscured as it might be at some other sites.
But the results you get depend on how you search. You'll usually get more information if you search an individual record set - for example, if I search for my grandfather in the 1911 Census choosing either Search all records, or Census, land and surveys from the Search menu, this is what I get:
But if instead I choose the A-Z of record sets, then pick the 1911 Census from the list, I get birthplace information as well:
Crikey - this additional detail could be vital, especially if the person youíre looking for has a common surname - and all from a FREE search!
Here's another example - this time I'm looking for great-grandfather's baptism. If I choose Birth, marriage, death and parish from the Search menu I get this when I search:
OK, not bad for a free search, but if go through the A-Z of record sets, then pick Suffolk Baptism Index 1538-1911 from the list I also find out what the forenames of his parents were:
And remember, this is still a FREE search! But even if you do have a subscription there will be the same difference - that's why I almost always search individual record sets at Findmypast, and why youíd do well to follow my advice. After all, why make things difficult for yourself?
The table below has links that will take you straight to some of the most popular record sets at Findmypast:
1881 British census (FREE transcription)
1939 Register (England & Wales)
* these parish register links will take you to the baptisms for the county - look under Useful Links and Resources for marriages, burials etc
LAST CHANCE: connect to your 'lost cousins' ENDS WEDNESDAY
Normally you'd need to be a LostCousins subscriber to initiate contact with a new cousin, but until midnight on Wednesday 15th April there are no restrictions. Even better, it wonít matter if your cousin doesn't respond until after the free period has ended - itís only the initial invitation that requires a subscription.
Tip: if youíre an Ancestry user like me you'll be familiar with the problem of other members not responding, no matter how many reminders you send - for all you know your messages might be disappearing into a 'block hole'. But at LostCousins you've got someone who will follow up if a cousin doesnít respond after 14 days - I'll do everything within my power to connect cousins.
Even if you haven't entered any new relatives for yonks, itís still worth logging-in to your LostCousins account, going to the My Ancestors page and clicking the Search button - based on past experience I know that there are thousands of matches waiting to be discovered.
And even if you donít get any new matches when you click the Search button, go to your My Cousins page and check whether there's anyone in the New Contacts section. There are thousands of new matches waiting to be explored - and now's the perfect time to do it.
Until 11.59pm on Monday 13th April Ancestry are offering free access to billions of UK & Ireland records at their UK site - please use this link so they'll know you're a reader of my newsletter.
Apologies for the late notice, but I've had other things on my mind - like getting up at 5.30am to get to my local convenience store in order to buy milk and other essentials while the shop was (relatively) empty. Still no eggs, however - itís over 3 weeks since I last saw an egg. In the old days (ie pre coronavirus) we used to have eggs for breakfast most days; they're pretty useful for cooking too.
But the main reason I couldnít tell you before is because my broadband has been playing up since Thursday, and on Friday it disappeared altogether, before returning - intermittently - over the weekend. So this newsletter might not even reach you before the Ancestry offer closes, I'm afraid.
Last month I mentioned that as a result of the pandemic many libraries are offering home access to resources (sometimes including Ancestry and/or Findmypast) that would normally be available only whilst on the library premises, and using one of their computers.
I said at the time that I do not intend to publicise what's available (there are so many different library services in the UK and around the world, all with different offerings) - so please donít write to tell me what your library offers. For those of you who donít already know what's available locally, it'll only take you a few minutes to check - you could be pleasantly surprised!
Libraries are a key source of online information - I have only physically visited my local library once in 20 years, but I have accessed their online resources, including newspapers, magazines, and reference works, on dozens of occasions. Let's face it - if youíre not going to make use of what they offer at a time like this, when are you going to do it? †
Over the past month I've compared what we're going through now to what our ancestors - and some older LostCousins members - went through. The privations of World War 2 and rationing have been a particular focus, and this week the BBC picked up the same thread in an article entitled Under Siege: The Kitchen Front, which not only looks at rationing and recipes, but also invites readers to send in their own memories.
For me it was an introduction to two characters who my father often talked about, but who I'd never knowingly heard before: Gert and Daisy. I wonder what memories the article will bring back for you?
An unusual birth certificate
Michele was surprised to see that though her husband's grandfather ended up fathering 12 children, he was described on his birth certificate as a girl! We can't know how the error was made in 1873, but in the GRO's new online indexes he appears as Male, so itís possible that when the register entries were copied for onward transmission to the GRO the error was corrected (perhaps unconsciously).
Jeremy Seabrook looks at orphans through the ages in this masterly work which, while focusing primarily on Britain, includes stories from other countries - including several modern tales from the Third World, which force us to face up to the fact that the issues have not been consigned to the past, they live on.
As most of you will be aware, whilst the term orphan is nowadays generally used for a child who has lost both parents, it wasn't always so. Indeed some of the examples the author considers involve children who were deprived of their parents by officialdom or do-gooders who thought they knew best. Frequently they were lied to. The Home Children sent to outposts of the Empire often had a mother, and sometimes two parents, who wanted them back - but some were told their parents were dead. Jeremy Seabrook estimates that up to 80% of the 'orphans' in 19th century orphan institutions had at least one parent living.
Dickens wrote about many orphans, but as Jeremy Seabrook points out, most of the orphans in Dickens' stories (and indeed those of other authors) eventually turn out to be the offspring of respectable parents. But for most 19th century orphans (or, indeed, those in earlier centuries) there was no happy ending - infants who ended up in the workhouse or other institutions generally died.
There are many tragic stories in this book, but the real tragedy is that the problem has still not been solved - and perhaps it never can be? Orphans isnít so much about our ancestors, but about the children who never had a chance to become our ancestors - thoroughly recommended for anyone who cares about what happens to children who donít have two loving parents.
This book was published in 2018 so I was able to get a second-hand copy of the hardback in as new condition for under £10 including delivery (there is a Kindle version but itís expensive).
Three years ago I reviewed Janet Few's excellent Putting Your Ancestors in their Place, a guide to One-Place Studies, so I wasted no time in reading her latest publication, Ten Steps to a One-Place Study.
It's a practical guide to designing and carrying out your study and, because it's just 36 pages, it's easy to follow. One-Place Studies offer a great way to combine local and family history, and you can define your 'place' in any way you like - it could be a street or a village, but the author has other interesting suggestions, some of which I hadn't previously considered. There are several other things to decide, but the last on her list is perhaps the most important: "What place am I most interested in?"
Many of the records that Janet Few suggests as sources are ones that as a family historian you'll already be familiar with - censuses, parish records etc. But there are many others which we donít routinely use in family history - though perhaps we should, and I suspect that many family historians who run a One-Place Study find that they end up learning more about their own family, even if they didn't live in the place they're researching.
An essential purchase of youíre considering starting a One-Place Study - or if you simply want to know more about what it would entail. It's available as either slim paperback, or as a Kindle book.
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......
© 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?