Newsletter – 30th August 2020
A weekend to remember NOW ENDS TUESDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 23rd August) 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!
A weekend to remember NOW ENDS TUESDAY
Until midnight on Tuesday 1st September the LostCousins site is completely free, which means that you can connect to the other researchers who share your ancestors - whether or not you're supporting the LostCousins project by paying a subscription. Of course, unless you're participating in the project – by entering relatives on your My Ancestors page – your cousins won’t be able to find you, and you won't be able to find them. A bit like life – what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. Some people waste their lives, some people waste their LostCousins membership – heigh ho!
Remember, it's the 1881 censuses that are most likely to connect you to your 'lost cousins'; remember too that because ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, the way to find them is to enter relatives from the branches. (Yes, I know it’s called My Ancestors but I didn't think that calling it My Dead Cousins would be very popular.)
Tip: you may not have to add anyone new to your My Ancestors page – thousands of people who receive this newsletter already have a New Contact waiting there! Others may discover a new match simply by clicking the Search button.
You've been matched with another LostCousins member and the two of you have signified that you're interested in corresponding. But what happens next – should you write to them, or do you wait for them to write to you? There's no fixed protocol, so just go ahead and send a message. The only thing that can go wrong is if you both sit on your hands waiting for the other member to start the ball rolling!
Tip: always take into account how you and the other member are connected – don’t expect them to know about people who are in your tree but may not be in theirs. A good opening gambit is to say "This is how I'm connected to the relatives we share, how about you?". For an overview of how the two of you are connected view the My Contact page for the relationship – this lists all of the people that you've both entered, and indicates in very broad terms how each of you are related to them. To view the My Contact page start on the My Cousins page and click the name (or initials) of the person you’re connected to.
For some time it has been possible to browse Findmypast's large collection of Welsh probate records from 1544-1858, but now you can search all 700,000 records in seconds! Follow this link to find out what your Welsh ancestors left behind.
Tip: you don’t need a subscription to view the search results, but you will need to log-in (or register if you haven't done so previously).
Over 400,000 pages from newspapers published in the Isle of Man 1792-1960 were made free to view in April, as a temporary measure – but now Manx National Heritage has announced that they are going to be free permanently. See this BBC News article for further information.
The John Brown shipyard on Clydebank was commissioned to build a new Royal Yacht on 4th February 1952, just two days before King George VI died and our present Queen succeeded to the throne. Named Britannia in 1953, for 44 years until 1997 the ship was in the service of the sovereign, and a list has been compiled of more than 3000 Officers and Royal Yachtsmen who served, including the LostCousins member who created this useful resource. If one of your relatives on Britannia you should find them in the list, which gives rank and years of service.
Note: the Navy List Research website is a good source for information about naval officers, based on the Navy Lists.
I have subscriptions to most of the main sites, and you may too – but remember that the cousins you encounter may not be so fortunate. For example, whilst everyone who takes the Ancestry DNA test currently benefits from ThruLines, those who don't have a subscription don’t know about Common Ancestors.
I contact as many as possible of my cousins with Common Ancestors to let them know how broadly we're related, with the promise of more to come when they respond. Not everyone replies, but most do – though it might be weeks, months or years later. One cousin of mine who replied after nearly 4 years told me that it’s much more difficult when you're using a smartphone – I haven’t checked that out, but whilst I wouldn’t consider using my smartphone to do serious genealogy, I know that a few LostCousins members do.
Some people give up if they don't get an immediate response to their first message – I wouldn't dream of doing that, and nor should you!
Note: at LostCousins you can ask me to chase up someone who doesn’t reply within 14 days – most do reply eventually, and in many cases they didn't see the original email because it went into their spam folder (or disappeared into a block hole – a particular problem for Hotmail users).
Adopted people in NSW will be able to have both their birth and adopted families included on a birth certificate for the first time in the State’s history following new reforms. The new certificate will be provided automatically to newly-adopted children, although they'll continue to receive a birth certificate that shows only their adoptive parents – this will enable them to use whichever they choose. Those who were adopted before the change in legislation will be able to apply for a new birth certificate - for more information follow this link.
Around this time of the year the Office for National Statistics releases the statistics on the most popular baby names of the previous year (see next article). But what were the popular names in medieval times, and how did they come up with them?
This amazing article at the History Extra website will tell you all that and more – it also talks about the introduction of surnames in the late Middle Ages.
Note: the link is working intermittently, probably because of the Internet infrastructure problems that you will have read about in the news. So keep trying - the article is well worth reading!
Oliver and Olivia are the two most popular names for babies whose births were registered in England & Wales in 2019, but as ever the list is influenced by popular culture - or so I'm told (I've never heard of Dua Lipa or Kylo Ren, and couldn’t even tell you whether they identify as male, female, or whatever). This BBC article has selected statistics and graphs, but for the full statistics visit this page on the ONS website.
Olivia also tops the list of girls names in Scotland, but the most popular boy's name is Jack – which only just creeps into the England & Wales top 10 at No.8
I hear many inspiring stories from members who have made discoveries thanks to DNA testing, but when the story comes from someone who I've corresponded with many times over the years it always feels extra special. The remainder of this article – other than the note at the end – has been written by the member, with slight changes to protect the identity of those concerned.
I had never had cause to doubt the legitimacy of my paternal line; the documentary evidence appeared solid back to my great-great-great grandfather. Whilst I had noticed that I only had one DNA match on my paternal grandfather's line (with a 2nd cousin) whereas I had many matches that connected through my other three grandparents, I initially put that down to my relatives not testing. However, as recommended by Peter, I re-tested with Ancestry and got a vastly higher number of matches than at all the other sites put together - it was clear that I had a group of about 20 connected matches who did not match any of my known cousins or other matches. Who were they?
I was able to develop the trees of this group and worked out that they all went back to the same person (let's call him Harmer - it’s an equally common surname), who was born in London in the late 1700s. And the strength of several of these matches suggested that I was related to one of this person's grandchildren born around 1850-1870. My grandfather was born in London in 1884; could his father be one of these people - and not the man whose name appeared on his birth certificate (and who was the husband of my great-grandmother)?
Six male Harmers looked to be prime candidates, so I developed their trees as far into the present day as I was able, using BMDs, censuses, the 1939 Register and the 2002-2020 electoral register. I then wrote to several living descendants, one of whom responded and agreed to take an autosomal DNA test at my expense. The result confirmed that I was on the right lines, but still did not prove which of them might be my great-grandfather. However, further investigation revealed that in the 1891 Census two of the Harmers on my shortlist were living just round the corner from where my great-grandmother had been living in the early 1880s (by contrast the other Harmers were on the other side of the Thames). One had been born in 1851 and was married with a family; the other (his brother) was born in 1858, single and died unmarried in 1896. The wife of the married brother had borne a child in 1883, so I obtained a PDF copy of the birth record, which showed that the family were living very close to my great grandparents in the early 1880s.
It didn't tell me whether the unmarried brother was living with him then, as he certainly was in 1891, but I felt sure that one of these two Harmers must be my genetic great-grandfather. It would certainly explain why my great-grandparents split up soon after the birth of my grandfather (my great grandmother subsequently married someone else). But I wanted absolute confirmation that my paternal line was to be found within the Harmer family tree. Fortunately, I had found some male descendants who bore the Harmer surname, and one of them not only responded to my letter, but agreed to take a Y-DNA test (again at my expense). The result showed that we had an exact Y-DNA match - clear proof that I descended from a Harmer; I now realised that the autosomal match with my 2nd cousin must have been due to the DNA my grandfather inherited from this mother (so in fact she wasn't a 2nd cousin, but a half 2nd cousin).
I may have lost one great-grandfather but I found another one, and in the process I had learned some useful lessons. These included:
I now have a whole new family line to research - and get to know. And I shall see if I can solve the question of which of the 2 Harmer brothers was my great grandfather; I reckon the unmarried one is the favourite, although it will not be easy to prove it as he had no children (apart perhaps from my grandfather) and so no living descendants.
Note: although this story involved the member's surname line, you can employ similar techniques in other parts of your tree – the Y-DNA test wasn't an essential part of the process, by the way.
I haven't had time to read Janet Few's new novel (and in truth historical fiction is not really my thing), but if her previous novel (which I did read and enjoy) is anything to go by it will be very popular with fans of the genre. Out now in paperback and as a Kindle book:
More to my taste is Janet's Ten Steps to a One-Place Study which I reviewed here.
On Tuesday I'm off to get my pneumonia jab – it’s a one-shot vaccine that should reduce my chance of getting pneumonia by 90%. However LostCousins member Bob was one of the unlucky 10%, and as he was initially diagnosed with suspected COVID-19 he decided to write about his experiences in a series of article in the LostCousins Forum – if you’re a member of the forum you can read about them here.
I've still only heard from one LostCousins member who has contracted COVID-19 (and recovered). I hope this indicates that, like me, you're taking care to avoid unnecessary risks.
Note: if you're entitled to join the LostCousins Forum you'll find a link and a code on your My Summary page.
Case numbers are rising in Europe, but is it something we should be worrying about? This article looks at three countries that have seen rising cases – make up your own mind!
The good news is that the pandemic has got most of us doing positive things that we wouldn’t have considered doing before, like taking exercise or – in my case – watching The Repair Shop and Gardeners' World At the same time businesses and other organisations are being forced to rethink the way they work, in some cases making changes they should have made years ago. If you follow this link you'll find one of a series of half-hour opera programmes on YouTube – all the way from New Zealand.
In America – where else – a young woman was discovered alive in a body bag just before she was about to be embalmed (you can read the story here).
Once again I've been busy jam-making this week – I started with 10 pounds of Damson jam, made with Merryweather damsons which are larger and more plum-like, so easier to stone. This was swiftly followed by 5 pounds of Shepherd's Bullace, the first of many batches, I suspect – and then an experimental batch of 3 pounds of 'Plum & Raisin', again using Merryweather damsons, but with just 400g of sugar to 1100g of stoned fruit. We tried some last night with roast chicken – it was an interesting change from cranberry sauce.
I've also been experimenting with dried damsons, though our oven won't allow me to dry them out completely, so I'm going to freeze them once I've dried them as much as I can. I've already got a large stash of unstoned raw damsons in the freezer – in 1kg rectangular yoghurt pots each holding 600g of fruit – but the stoned, dried damsons take up a fraction of the space.
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 in September – in the meantime keep searching for those 'lost cousins' of yours!
© 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.