Newsletter 29th April 2021
Help celebrate our birthday ENDS TUESDAY
Free access to British censuses at Findmypast ENDS MONDAY
Over 50,000 corrected surnames FREE TO MEMBERS
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 19th 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!
Not only do I know precisely where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the assassination of President Kennedy, and the deaths of Princess Diana and the Duke of Edinburgh, I also know precisely wheren I was on the day that the LostCousins website launched.
On 1st May 2004 I was standing outside the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster, handing out leaflets to the queues of people waiting to enter for the Society of Genealogists Annual Fair. I suspect quite a few of you were also there although I remember only too well that only a handful joined on that first day, despite the many hundreds of leaflets I doled out as I trudged backwards and forwards along the queue.
But whilst I may have been going backwards and forwards on the first day, it has been full steam ahead ever since around 120,000 people have joined over the years, and most are still members, though in some cases we've lost contact. Nevertheless there are 70,000 members who have received this issue of the newsletter, probably the highest circulation of any independent genealogy newsletter in the world!
Help celebrate our birthday ENDS TUESDAY
From now until midnight on Tuesday 4th May the LostCousins site will be completely free, allowing ALL members to initiate contact with the relatives they've found. Whether your 'lost cousin' replies before the deadline doesnt matter it's when you send the invitation that counts.
Now's the time to add to the entries on your My Ancestors page every single entry is a potential link to a 'lost cousin', but entries from the 1881 Census are the most likely (by far) to match with your cousins' entries.
As many as three out of every four readers of this newsletter are currently missing out because they haven't added anyone to their My Ancestors page, or have only entered a small subset of their relatives are you one of them? Whilst it's their prerogative to turn down the opportunity, I wonder if they've seriously considered how it affects their own cousins? LostCousins is all about cousins helping each other so I sincerely hope that everyone reading this will play their part.
Free access to British censuses at Findmypast ENDS MONDAY
From 10am (London time) on Friday 30th April until 10am on Monday 3rd May, Findmypast are offering free access to ALL of their British censuses from 1841-1911, and for LostCousins members it's a great opportunity to find more relatives to add to your My Ancestors page.
Please choose the link for the Findmypast site you prefer:
Searching the censuses at Findmypast is different from searching them at most other sites for a start, you can search by address as well as by name. And most censuses can be searched by occupation, which can be very handy when you're looking for someone with a common surname, but a more unusual profession.
Note: the censuses which can't be searched by occupation are the 1841 and 1871 England & Wales censuses, which weren't transcribed by Findmypast themselves.
To get the best out of Findmypast it's almost always best to search individual record sets separately. For example, if you want to search by occupation you can only do so across all of the censuses by entering the occupation as a keyword, which could lead to the search results you want being overwhelmed by others which are irrelevant, whether youre looking for the Bakers who were smiths, or the Smiths who were bakers.
Tip: for more advice on searching at Findmypast please see this Masterclass.
Finally, a reminder that the 1939 Register wasn't actually a census, though it did use the infrastructure created for the 1941 Census (which, of course, never happened). So the 1939 Register is not included in this weekend's free access offer which is a shame because Findmypast have the most complete version of the register (just last week they opened up another 95,000 records search all of their 34,943,465 entries here).
Over 50,000 corrected surnames FREE TO MEMBERS
Have you ever struggled to find a relative on the census, only to discover that their surname had been recorded incorrectly, or mistranscribed? Smart searching using wildcards can bypass many of the potential problems, but sometimes we feel like giving up. Fortunately there's help at hand!
Since LostCousins began in 2004 members have been contributing to the Index of Incorrect Surnames, a fully-searchable resource that can help you find your relatives in the censuses that we use and I'm delighted to say that following the latest update there are now more than 50,000 surnames in the list.
How does it work? As you know, the LostCousins matching system utilises the data from the census, whether it's right or wrong but members can choose to add corrections in the optional part of the form (these appear on your My Ancestors page in italics, as reminder that the census shows something different).
Whilst this information isn't employed in the matching process, any corrected surnames you enter will be added to the Index of Incorrect Surnames to make it easier for others some of whom will be your cousins to find the same entries. For example, my CALVER relatives appear in the censuses under multiple spellings, and by typing CALVER into the search box I can list those that have been spotted by LostCousins members:
Usually the most difficult census entries to find are the ones where the surname shown is completely different from the one you expect this can happen, for example, when a widow remarries and her children are shown on the census under their stepfather's surname, or where a child is staying with an aunt or grandmother. Enumerators loved using ditto marks!
Finally, it's worth mentioning that although the index only includes information from the censuses we use at LostCousins, if you're struggling to find some of your relatives in a different census it might still be worth trying some of the alternatives listed.
Note: the Index of Incorrect Surnames is only available to LostCousins members, so you'll need to log-in first. If you can't remember your log-in details click the Password reminder link and enter the email address quoted in the text of the email you received telling you about this newsletter.
In 2021 a number of family historians added additional information when filling in their paper census forms, so I decided to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out from the Office for National Statistics whether this information would be available to future generations when the censuses are eventually published.
This is what they told me:
"Digital image scans will be made of the entire forms which will enable descendants to see the additional information when the forms are released to the public. After scanning all questionnaires are held in a secure warehouse pending the acceptance of the data. Once approved, all questionnaires are securely shredded by a company authorised to handle sensitive paper waste and the shredded paper is sent to a paper mill to be recycled."
I also asked about censuses from 1951-2011:
"The household schedules from 1951 -2001 have been securely retained. The forms from 2011 were scanned in their entirety."
In both 2011 and 2021 I completed the census online I wish now that I had used the paper form, as I know many of you did!
If you live in England or Wales you'll know when Census Day was it was Sunday 21st March. But the householder is expected to complete the census form based on who was living in the household on Census Night so is that the night of Saturday 20th to Sunday 21st March, which would seem logical since we're expected to complete the form on Census Day? Or is it the night of Sunday 21st to Monday 22nd March?
It might seem a moot point, but as around 1500 people will have sadly passed away on Census Day (and about 1750 babies will have been born), thousands of household returns depend upon it. And that's ignoring the people who moved home or left home on Census Day I don't suppose many house purchases are completed on a Sunday, but people moving from one rented property to another might well choose to do so at the weekend.
The Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 provides the answer:
Now that the majority of people complete the census online it seems following official advice and completing the census on or before Census Day is risky you can't go back and amend a return once it has been submitted. Of course, some life events are more predictable than others.
When I was researching the previous article I came across a leaflet that was produced to help local authority employees answer questions from members of the public it's worth downloading a copy for your family history archive as there's no guarantee it will remain available for ever.
Red tape strikes again
Downloading official documents while you can is always a good idea you never know what's going to happen to them. Some of you will recall that 2 years ago I set up the website 2021Census.com where you could download copies of the form used in the 2019 rehearsal for the 2021 England & Wales census. I'm a great believer in making public information available to the public.
Sadly the UK Government have forced me to remove those PDF files from my website, and they are not available anywhere else at this time; however I've found an online source of the draft returns published in 2020, and I've substituted a link to those.
Note: some people might think that the Government are a bit miffed that I registered the domain name 2021Census.com before they thought of doing it themselves. If so, then goodness knows what they'll do when they discover that I also own the domain name 2031census.com!
Foundling archives to be transcribed
Earlier this month I mentioned the Foundling Hospital, the brainchild of Thomas Coram, but what I didn't know at the time is that the charity has embarked on a project to transcribe 112,000 pages from their archive which cover the period 1739-1910, According to their website:
If you would like to volunteer your services follow this link all you need is a computer and some spare time.
Transcribing old handwriting - especially if it has been scratched on vellum with a quill pen using ink that has faded or become smudged - is a challenging task, whether the work is carried out by volunteers or paid transcribers. I take my hat off to them anyone who dares to criticise their work gets short shrift from me!
I'd encourage anyone who has spare time, patience, and good eyesight to take on the challenge, but please bear in mind that engaging in a transcription project isnt necessarily the best way of helping others. For example, I would argue that collaborating with family historians who are our cousins should generally take priority the fact that we're researching the same ancestral lines means that we each have something special to offer to the other.
Another collaborative project is Wikipedia, an encyclopaedia written and edited by volunteers I find it an excellent place to start my research on a topic that's new to me, or one where I need to refresh my knowledge (or check facts such as names and dates when writing an article of my own).
Sadly there are some people including a few LostCousins members who think that Wikipedia is such an unreliable source that it isnt worthy of consideration. There are over 6 million articles in English, far more than in any printed encyclopaedia, or indeed any other online encyclopedia (see this table) so there are bound to be some errors, just as there are in any encyclopaedia.
But what annoys me most is the people who criticise the work of other volunteers, but don't bother to correct the errors that they find. All publications depend on their readers to point out mistakes that have slipped past the editorial team, and readers who carp without contributing corrections are simply being negative. Anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, so the next time you find an error, how about doing the right thing?
I realised only recently that some family historians are confused about what is meant when we refer to a branch of a family tree - it probably doesn't help that family trees are normally drawn with the roots going upwards and the branches going downwards. So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that when some people talk about branches, they're actually talking about ancestral lines.
When I talk about the branches of my tree, what I mean is the parts of the tree that are not in my direct line because they branch off from one of the main lines, to use a railway analogy. Like most family historians I dont put as much effort into researching individual branches as I do into researching my roots (though because there are so many branches they probably take more of my time).
Nevertheless branches are important, because they're where ALL of our cousins are to be found as anyone who has tested their DNA will have discovered. From your point of view each of your cousins is connected to your tree by a branch, though for them its the other way round your branch is their direct line, and the point at which their direct line diverges from yours is where your branch begins.
For LostCousins members (and if you received an email from me telling you about this newsletter you're one of us), branches are where our 'lost cousins' will be found. That's why when you're completing your My Ancestors page it's so important to enter relatives from the branches of your tree.
Note: a good strategy to maximise your chances of connecting with 'lost cousins' is to start in 1841 and track each branch and twig through to 1881.
If youre in the UK you can get 6 issues for just £9.99, less than you would normally pay for just 2 issues at the newsagent, whilst members overseas can make really BIG savings on annual subscriptions (at least 50%). Please follow this link.
Note: if you are in Canada the price quoted will be in US dollars (you'll pay the same price as your friends across the border); similarly, if you are in New Zealand the price quoted will be in Australian dollars.
Until Sunday 9th May residents of Australia and New Zealand can save $30 on Ancestry DNA tests, which are reduced from $129 to $99 (excluding shipping, prices are in Australian dollars).
To support LostCousins when you make your purchase please follow the link below (if youre logged-in to Ancestry, please log-out and click the link a second time):
Ancestry.com.au SAVE $30 on DNA tests until 9th May
Tip: if you can't see the link its because you're using an adblocking program or browser extension; I suggest you make LostCousins.com an exception. Please also make sure that tracking is enabled (more information here).
For once these adoption stories don't involve LostCousins members, but nonetheless I thought you'd like to read them.
The first concerns a teenage relationship that produces a child, who is given up for adoption then 53 years later the couple meet up, get married, and embark on a quest to find their 'lost' daughter. You can read all about this heart-warming story here.
The second came from an episode of The Repair Shop that I watched this week. It was a lovely story about photographs that had been found in old handbag it was the first time that 82 year-old Derek had seen his mother since she died in 1938, when he was just 2 years old. This newspaper article includes a clip from the programme.
Last week I received a lovely email from LostCousins member Elaine, who wrote:
"I have just read your latest newsletter and can relate to the 60 year old postcard story.
"I was recently going through my mother's photographs again and found photos of her penfriend from England. They corresponded sometime during the period 1947 to 1952. My mother often mentioned her penfriend.
"I decided to go searching through Ancestry's Public Member's Trees, to see if I could find anyone connected with this lady. I had some idea of her address as there were two postcards which indicated this.
"I sent a message to two people who I thought might be possible relatives. One fellow replied and I have now sent copies of the photographs which I have. The lady did marry the man who was her boyfriend pictured in one of the photographs.
"I was very pleased to make this connection."
On Saturday when I wrote to Elaine to thank her for the photographs she'd sent me, she mentioned that she'd just been listening to a programme on the radio about a man going through his late mother's belongings who found the letters which his Mum and Dad wrote during his Dad's service in WW2. I didnt hear the programme, but it instantly reminded me of the hundreds of letters that my father sent home to his mother during the war, many of which I've yet to read.
I also remembered that after my step-mother died in 2003 I briefly attempted to track down the girl that my father had been sweet on before the war but who, by the time he was demobbed, had married a Canadian serviceman and crossed the Atlantic with him.
In the last issue I mentioned that historic copies of the Radio Times are available free online which had a big impact on one member. Here's what Ann wrote:
"I have just read your latest newsletter which as usual is full of helpful info and interesting things to enjoy.
"One little sentence caught my eye, about copies of old Radio Times being available, so I clicked on the link and within five minutes was taken back to 11th September 1954 Children's Hour. What an age of innocent and simple entertainment it was compared to today: my friend and I aged 16 and 15 played piano duets on that programme for five minutes and were each paid one guinea and sent a contract for that performance.
"For some reason I didnt keep, or have lost, a copy of the Radio Times for that day, so to find it and be able to print off the cover and our programme has really made my day. We played 'out' quite a lot at various functions, but both followed the conventional path of work, marriage and a family, not a piano playing career.
"Thank you so much for this most unexpected find Im sending my friend (yes, she is still alive and well) a copy of what Ive found and I know she will be delighted."
My father suffered from tuberculosis in his teens, but thankfully survived however his elder brother Horace, who had been hospitalised with TB between 1928-30 but recovered, succumbed to a second bout in 1936. It's sobering to think that I was the first of my grandfather's descendants not to suffer from TB fortunately I got the BCG vaccination as a child.
At the beginning of the 20th century the origins of TB were still being hotly-debated. In 1901, at the International Congress on Tuberculosis in London, Robert Koch the scientist who had discovered the bacterium that causes TB stated that in his view the chance of the disease being transmitted from cattle to humans via milk was very low, but many scientists didn't agree, and a Royal Commission was set up.
Sir James Blyth, owner of Blythwood Farm in Stansted Mountfitchet (the village where LostCousins was to be founded a century later), had been the treasurer of the 1901 Congress. He offered the free use of his farm for research purposes and this turned out to be crucial, as you can see from the first page of this article from the British Medical Journal in 1911.
Note: if you want to research this topic further the paper 'Milk consumption and tuberculosis in Britain, 1850-1950' provides some interesting background it is free to read and download.
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 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.