Newsletter - 24th January 2019
Australia Day offer from Findmypast ENDS MONDAY
Last chance to enter my New Year Competition ENDS THURSDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 12th January) 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!
Australia Day offer from Findmypast ENDS MONDAY
If you live in Australia or New Zealand, but donít have a current subscription to Findmypast I've got some good news - until midnight on Monday 28th January you can save 50% on any 1 month subscription to Findmypast.com.au when you follow this link (please note that Terms and Conditions apply, and that your subscription will renew at the standard price unless you deselect the auto-renewal option).
Last chance to enter my New Year Competition ENDS THURSDAY 31ST
There has been an incredible response to this year's competition - not surprising, perhaps, given the incredible array of prizes on offer!
This year's most valuable prize is a 12 month Pro or Ultimate subscription to the Findmypast site of your choice (worth up to £156), offering unlimited access to over 8 billion records and news articles, including the 1939 Register for England & Wales and the largest collection of British parish records anywhere online.
(generously donated by Findmypast, Britain's leading family history company)
With a Pro subscription (known as an Ultimate subscription at Findmypast.com) you can access any of Findmypast's historic records and newspaper articles, as well as their modern (2002-18) UK Electoral Register - and you can do this at any of Findmypast's four sites around the globe.
In 2018 Findmypast started selling DNA tests for the first time - powered by Living DNA, this autosomal test offers the highest resolution analysis of your English ancestry (normal price £79)
(donated by Findmypast)
Also on offer is a 12 month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive, the worlds largest online collection of newspaper from the British Isles - by my calculations there are over 360 million articles in this collection, which continues to grow.
(donated by British Newspaper Archive)
ONE copy of Family Historian v6 (kindly donated by Simon Orde, the designer and lead programmer of Family Historian)
Check out Family Historian now with a free 30-day trial - just follow this link. The winner of this prize will receive an activation code to turn the trial copy into a fully-functioning version of this amazing program.
FIVE autographed paperback copies of Hiding the Past, the first novel in The Forensic Genealogist series from Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
If you're lucky enough to win one of these books signed by the author I'd suggest you donít read it - instead download the Kindle version and keep the paperback somewhere safe, because one day it might be rather valuable!
FIVE 12 month subscriptions to LostCousins
If you already have a subscription I'll extend it by 12 months
HOW TO ENTER - HOW TO WIN
The great thing about this competition is that to win, 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 21st December 2018 and midnight (London time) on Thursday 31st January 2019 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 - most people just call them ancestors; a 'blood relative' is a cousin, ie someone who shares your ancestry. And remember, ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree - so the more branches you track through to the 1881 Census and enter, the greater your chance of winning one of the top prizes
Shortly after the competition closes I'll start picking relatives at random from all those 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). No individual member can win more than one prize, but if you have more than one account (eg the second account is for your spouse) you could win two prizes.
Note: prize winners who do not respond within 24 hours will be allocated the best prize available (my decision is final).
Even if you don't win one of these prizes there's a far greater reward at stake, and it's one that everyone can win - you could find a 'lost cousin'. Every single relative you enter is a potential link to another researcher who shares your ancestry - and whenever you click the Search button the LostCousins computer will compare every single entry you've made against the millions of entries made by other members!
Tip: unlike some websites, which update their databases at intervals, the LostCousins database is updated instantly - there is no waiting, whether you're entering a new relative or updating an existing entry.
This year your chances of finding a new cousin are better than ever before - for example, when you enter a relative from the 1881 England & Wales census there's 1 chance in 15 of an immediate match!
If you're new to LostCousins, or have forgotten how easy it is to enter relatives, see the Getting Started Guide on the Help & Advice page. If it takes you more than a minute or two to enter a household from the 1881 Census (and youíre not mentally or physically disabled) please ask for my advice - there must be some misunderstanding.
Tip: although there's the option to enter lots of extra information about your relatives on the second part of the Add Ancestor form, it won't be used in the matching process. The only information I always enter, when I know it, is the maiden name of a married woman - this is automatically added to the Index of Maiden Names, so might help my cousins find the census entry.
Over at the LostCousins Forum we've been discussing the new version of Family Tree Analyzer, which - if you have the correct information in your family tree - could largely automate the process of adding relatives to your My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site.
Family Tree Analyzer is a free utility with all sorts of useful features, including some that are designed specifically to aid LostCousins members. I'll announce in the newsletter when this new version is ready for download, but in the meantime forum users are welcome to try it out.
Note: the LostCousins forum is completely free, but itís currently only open to LostCousins members who have achieved a Match Potential of 1 or more (this is a fairly modest target - mine is over 10 and some elite members have a Match Potential that's over 30). To check your Match Potential log-in at LostCousins and go to the My Summary page - if you have already been invited to join the forum you will find a link and a coupon code.
The Society of Genealogists library now holds the microfilm collection of London Family History Centre - including tens or hundreds of millions of parish register entries. But how can you find out whether a specific parish is included?
One you've logged in at FamilySearch (itís free to register) choose the Catalog option from the Search menu. On the search form type the name of the parish under Place, then click the radio button against Family History Center. This will display a dropdown menu, scroll down until you get to Society of Genealogists and select it; finally click the Search button.
If the registers are held at the SoG you'll find the details listed when you click the Church records entry. I might just be lucky, but all of the English parish registers I looked for, from 4 different counties, are available at the SoG (according to the Catalog).
Tip: the collection of FamilySearch microfilms is just part of the massive holdings in the SoG library. You donít need to be an SoG member to use the library but there is a fee for non-members and you'll also be required to provide identification (find out more here).
This week The Genealogist added nearly 700,000 records from HO/8 at the National Archives covering the period 1821-76 (they now have over 1.3 million records for the period 1801-76).
The Prison Registers give details of ancestors who were imprisoned in a number of convict prisons from Broadmoor to the Warrior Convict Hulk - they reveal the names of prisoners, offences the prisoner had been convicted for, the date of their trial and where they were tried. (There are different criminal records from the National Archives available at Findmypast and others at Ancestry.)
The Genealogist are continuing to add colour maps to their collection of Tithe records - just before Christmas they added maps for Rutland and Huntingdonshire - and another resource you wonít find at other sites is the 1910 Land Valuation (sometimes called the Lloyd George Domesday Book). Warning: almost all of the new records they've released recently require a Diamond subscription - the only exception I spotted was an addition to their collection of Worcestershire parish register transcripts. If you follow this link to the News Archive you'll be able to see what records they've added this year, last year, or in any previous year.
Tip: you can save £20 on a Diamond subscription when you follow this link. You'll also get a free subscription to the online magazine 'Discover Your Ancestors', worth £24.99
A recent study found that even if you're not a user of social media sites such as Facebook, itís still possible to predict your activities with 95% accuracy by studying the profiles and posts of 8 or 9 close contacts who are users. You can read more about the study in this article published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday (you may need to register for a free account).
I suspect that I'd be in the 5% because even my friends and relatives don't have a clue what I'm doing most of the time - but we canít all be in that 5%, and those of you who have children and grandchildren are, I suspect, more likely to have an Internet presence, either in person or by proxy.
An article in Tuesday's Guardian followed up on the topic by warning social media users not to post photographs of other people without their permission. I'd go further - if a relative or friend has chosen not to have a presence on social media, perhaps you shouldn't mention them at all? Would you want the local burglar to know when youíre on holiday simply because your daughter is looking after your dog, and couldnít resist posting a picture of the pooch on Facebook?
Mind you, no matter how careful you are to protect the privacy of others, there will always be someone who claims youíre not doing enough!
In practice there are only a handful of names revealed in this way each year - partly because LostCousins members are very good at updating their My Details page when their email address changes, but also because I go to great lengths to track people down if they forget to tell me about their new address. I'd like to think that it's the personal touch that makes LostCousins so different!
But perhaps the best indication that the LostCousins way is the right way, is the fact that no member has ever had cause to complain about one of the cousins they've successfully connected with - and that's since the site opened in 2004. The only gripes are about the few cousins who, for one reason or another, don't respond at all - which is why they get so much of my attention (there's a parable in the Bible on a similar theme).
Note: many thanks to the member who pointed out the forum discussion mentioned above - if anyone else ever notices negative comments about LostCousins on forums or social media, please let me know, because innocent misunderstandings can have unintended consequences. And I'd be glad to hear about positive comments too - we all need a psychological boost from time to time!
One of the great things about this series is that every story is different:
"Having been sent to a Church of England Mother and Baby Home in Hampstead during 1964 I met around 30 other young women aged between 16 and 30. There were only three of us who intended to keep our babies, all the rest were having, or being pressured to have. their babies adopted - usually six weeks after birth.
"The home was run by a Matron who made all the arrangements for us to attend ante-natal classes and hospital check-ups at the maternity hospital on the Heath, took payments out of our maternity allowances, made the shopping lists, menus and work rotas for us to do all the cooking, cleaning and caring for the babies once born. Those who were C of E were expected to attend the parish church on Sundays, and the Vicar came to 'talk' to us on Wednesday afternoons: otherwise our afternoons were free for a couple of hours to have friends visit or go out, with permission usually granted if anyone wished to stay out longer.
"My Mother moved whilst I was at the Mother & Baby Home because she didn't want the neighbours to know, and I had to promise (with my fingers crossed behind my back) not to tell any of my friends or older relatives. Only my Auntie knew, it was she who had persuaded my mother not to insist I had an abortion.
"I didn't meet anyone at the Home who was glad to have their baby adopted so they could get on with their life and forget about it. They were all upset when their turn came to say goodbye to their baby and anxious that the adoptive parents would be kind and give them a good life. Many included particular items to be passed on when they were older packed amongst the baby's clothes and toys.† One girl had insisted upon having her baby baptized before he left her with the hope his name would be retained by the adoptive parents.
"About ten years ago I received a package from an old college friend - it contained a book in which was described the character's time in the Hampstead Home, my friend having remembered visiting me there and describing all the floor scrubbing I'd had to do. She'd seen the book in a charity shop so bought it with me in mind. I remember the author saying we should write a book about our experience there, but it never occurred to me that she'd actually do it!
"I stayed in contact with two girls after I'd left the Home. One, who was 16 years old, I'd also shared a hospital ward with for ten days. She'd met a boy in a coffee bar she had frequented on her way back from ante-natal classes and he visited every day bringing us whatever we wanted in the way of chocolates and cigarettes, magazines, etc. which had made our stay there comfortable and less boring. She'd had to give up her baby and when she visited me and my baby she said it was very upsetting to see me with the baby I'd been able to keep and I didn't hear from her again.
"The other was a West Indian girl who took her baby to live with its father and his large family. The father of my child and I were invited to tea, but we ate separately with her serving us and all the family in another room which we found rather disturbing - and I didn't hear from her again either.
"My parents had divorced in 1950 when my mother took me to London after a particularly bad attack from my very possessive and controlling father; there was a court hearing giving him access to me with a chaperone. When I was eight in 1953 he introduced a woman to me as his new wife who I was to call Auntie. He explained that he'd met her whilst she was working in a bakery shop, and he'd chosen her because she was plain and wouldn't attract the attention of anyone else.
"Auntie was kind and over time I also met her mother and brother who were also nice but not very well off. When it was my birthday and at Christmas they would present me with a box of assorted small presents that they had saved or made during the intervening time, rather like receiving a Christmas stocking, which was nice as my father did not believe in giving presents for a particular occasion. I had to see him every weekend until I was 16.
"My father never kept a job for long, using his diabetes as the reason for not working, although he had rented a cafe for Auntie to run with her bakery experience. He believed that if everyone ate raw grain no one would get cancer and pushed his ideas (mixed up with religion) from the cafe.† After my 16th birthday they moved to Bournemouth where they continued having a cafe and peddling his raw grain, so I didn't see them very often, just when I happened to be on the South Coast and would ring the cafe. I once decided to just turn up at the cafe to find it was closed for lunch! Auntie was not at their flat and a neighbour told me he'd been forced to work in a car park but didn't know which one so I'd had to drive round Bournemouth to find him. He was a really odd and unpredictable father and often verbally unkind to Auntie in front of me.
"In 1990 it was his 80th birthday so I sent a card and suggested I visit; his reply was that he was in hospital having his insulin rebalanced, had reached his goal of 80 and would be taking an overdose of insulin rather than inflict his ills on my Auntie. I contacted my son who was holidaying nearby, but before I could persuade him to take time out to go see him, Auntie rang to say my father had died of a massive heart attack just before she was due to collect him from hospital.
"Within a couple of months Auntie gave up their rented flat plus the cafť and moved into a sheltered housing flat. One time when I visited her with my daughter she spilled the beans about my father often being violent towards her and restricting her movements, that she'd had no social life beyond the cafť - he had even forbidden her going to Church.† She said that my mother did the right thing in taking me away from him, that I would have had a terrible childhood and she wished she'd spoken to my mother before she'd married him to hear her reasons for leaving him.† My father had not told her of his diabetes before their marriage
"She spent nearly twenty happy years in the flat, although having to use a wheelchair and slowly losing her sight, which meant she had to give up watching tennis on the TV, knitting, and painting. She celebrated her 100th birthday there, but† not long afterwards she found she could no longer move her legs at all, and was transferred to a Council care home, where her hearing also deteriorated so she was no longer able to telephone me. My letters had to be read to her and her replies written by other people. She died soon after her 104th birthday last September and her old neighbour rang to tell me. Then came the surprise......
"She said Auntie's daughter had been present at her death. I said she didn't have a daughter, just me as her step-daughter. The neighbour then said she thought I knew, that she'd had an illegitimate daughter who she'd given up for adoption in 1949, and who had found her when she was 102 and been visiting her frequently since!
"I was stunned and amazed - I had another step-sister. Why hadn't I been told?† Did my father know about her? (It would have been another thing for him to be nasty about.)
"The neighbour was rather vague about the details of Auntie's daughter, but gave me enough to find her birth entry and the possible surname she is now using. It took me some time to discover she had spelt the name incorrectly and that it was her married name, not adopted name. Further research over Christmas has brought up that she is now a widow and living in a retirement complex of three blocks of apartments which should be enough for me to be able to write to her, see if she wishes to be friends and for me to send her my Auntie's earlier history and family photos I'd been given when my father died, including a couple of Auntie's mother.
"I just wish I'd been told about this daughter years ago, and that they could have been reunited earlier whilst my Auntie still had her sight and could have seen her daughter."
What a story! And it's still not over - I do hope that the two of them become friends.
Not many people understand DNA, but everyone knows about jigsaws. So in this article I'm going to explain DNA testing using jigsaws!
Suppose your parents each owned two jigsaws which they had had since childhood - they inherited one from each of their parents (though sadly they canít remember which was which). At a glance all four of the pictures appear quite similar, but on close inspection it is obvious that there are lots of small differences. One day they each decide to make a new jigsaw by combining their two puzzles in such a way that the pieces still fit together - and they give the two jigsaws to you.
Now imagine that this process has been going on for many generations - in other words, the jigsaws your parents owned had come from their parents, who had inherited jigsaws from their parents, and so on. This means that in your two jigsaws youíd have pieces from each of your 4 grandparents, each of your 8 great-grandparents, each of your 16 great-great grandparents etc etc. (In fact you might at first imagine that you've got at least one piece from every ancestor - until you realise that you donít have to go back very many generations before the number of ancestors far exceeds the number of pieces in the puzzles.)
Nevertheless there's a lot of information about your ancestry encoded into the jigsaws, and you're fascinated by the idea of tracing your ancestors..... if only you knew which ancestor each piece of the puzzle came from. But you donít - the pieces arenít labelled in any way, and there are no copies of the original jigsaws in existence. All you have to go on is your own jigsaws.
But then you have a brainwave - why not compare your jigsaws with the jigsaws belonging to your cousins? After all, if one of your cousins has exactly the same piece in precisely the same place, there's a good chance that you both inherited that piece from one of the ancestors that you share (and if there are several pieces in a row that all match then itís even more likely). So you do this for all the cousins who are prepared to show you their jigsaws.
Then you have another brainwave - you realise that you've got many more cousins than the few dozen that you're in contact with, but you donít know who they are. So you join a website that offers to connect people who share the same jigsaw pieces, and now you've got thousands of cousins - the only problem is, almost all of them are so distantly related that you canít figure out what the connection is.
Fortunately you have yet another brainwave at this point - you realise that you can use the information you gleaned from your known cousins to figure out how youíre connected to the unknown cousins (or at least, some of them). If one of the pieces in the jigsaw of cousin X, one of your unknown cousins, is a piece that you share with cousin A, one of the cousins you already know, it's a reasonable assumption that cousin X is connected to you via the ancestors that you share with cousin A - and that might be the vital clue that enables you to figure out your precise connection to cousin X, turning them from an unknown cousin to a known cousin.
You can make these three-way connections even when there isn't a single piece of the jigsaw that you all share. If a piece of your jigsaw matches unknown cousin Y, and a different piece of cousin Y's jigsaw matches known cousin B, there's a fair chance that you all share a common ancestor. It could just be chance - after all, two jigsaws might well have blue sky in the same place - but the more pieces that match the less likely it is to be a coincidence. Since you already know how youíre related to cousin B, you might now be able to figure out how youíre both related to cousin Y.
During this process you're converting unknown cousin to known cousins, and this gives you further opportunities. For example, unknown cousin Z may not match with any of the cousins you knew at the beginning, but they might match with cousin X or cousin Y.
The closer your known cousins the more pieces youíre likely to share with them, and similarly the more pieces you share with an unknown cousin, the closer the relationship is likely to be - though once you get beyond 3rd cousin the amount shared will be so low that distinguishing between (say) a 5th cousin and a 10th cousin in this way is impossible.
What are the key lessons to be learned from this jigsaw analogy?
Ethnicity estimates derived from DNA tests have come in for a lot of criticism over the years, not least from me †- on at least three occasions over the past two years I've described them in this newsletter as being 'for entertainment only', and in June 2016 I wrote an article provocatively entitled Don't expect meaningful DNA results in which I wrote:
I've uploaded my brother's results to FamilyTreeDNA - they reckon he's 40% Scandinavian, 40% British Isles (including Ireland) and 20% Southern Europe; but they tell me that I'm 59% Western & Central Europe, and 41% Scandinavia. We have the same parents, so how can our ancestry be so different - of course, the answer is that it can't!
The truth is, DNA tests are pretty poor at telling us about our origins hundreds or thousands of years ago. One of the reasons for this is the simple fact that we haven't inherited any DNA at all from most of our ancestors!
Nevertheless, some tests continue to be marketed in such a way that purchasers might assume that the ethnicity estimates will tell them all they need to know about their ancestry, without any sustained effort or analysis - and certainly without the need for the hard slog of conventional, records-based research. Readers of this newsletter aren't going to make a mistake like that, but since 400 times as many tests have been sold as there are readers, I suspect that the advertising and marketing of the companies dominates the purchasing decision.
Not surprisingly this mismatch between expectation and results draws attention from the mainstream media. For example, a Canadian TV documentary recently reported how 5 DNA testing companies produced widely differing ethnicity estimates for a pair of identical twins, but perhaps most surprising - at least to the reporter - were the differences between the twins (even from the same company).
Although identical twins begin with identical DNA, errors (or mutations) are introduced during replication, and so there will always be small differences (see this article for more information). There will also be differences in DNA results because of errors or omissions - even though DNA tests may be over 99.9% accurate, that 0.1% can make a big difference to ethnicity estimates.
If you test with Ancestry, as I have, you'll see that they give a range. For example, I'm shown as 10% Ireland, Wales, and Scotland - but when I look more closely it shows that behind the headline figure of 10% is a range of 0% to 12%, and since I've to find any ancestors at all from those three countries I'm inclined to think that I'm at the lower end of the range. Of course, if you believed the headline number - because it fitted with what you knew, thought you knew, or wanted to believe about your ancestry - you might not have looked any further.
How are ethnicity estimates arrived at? Well, just as you or I might guess that someone was Spanish, French, or Scandinavian based on the colour of their hair, their skin tone, or other facial features, DNA testing companies look at the pieces of your DNA jigsaw and try to determine which country or region they're most representative of, comparing them against a selection of jigsaws from around the world. The problem with this approach is that migration isnít something that began with railways, steamships, and the aeroplane - people have been migrating since the birth of the human race, so the DNA of a modern day population of a country or region might not be very representative of its historic population.
There's a 3-page article in the February issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine which deals with the inherent uncertainties in ethnicity estimates in far more detail, but take it from me, the real reason you should test your DNA is to find cousins who can help you break down your 'brick walls'.
Note: if you live in the UK you can currently get a trial subscription to WDYTYA? Magazine for just £5 (for 5 issues) when you follow this link - but it wonít start until the next issue.
It's incredible what we can discover about our ancestors, whether through records-based research, by searching historic newspapers, or from DNA testing. Everyone reading this newsletter will have done the first two, but even those of us who have tested our DNA are still getting to grips with it - so I suspect all of you will find this real-life example intriguing.
Earlier this month I received an email from a LostCousins member who had encountered something rather interesting when analysing how her DNA matched that of her cousins. Here's what Linda wrote (I've changed all the names to protect the identities of those involved):
Can I ask for your opinion on a DNA matter please? This screenshot is the list of close DNA matches for my 2nd cousin Eleanor.
Dave and Teri are our 2nd cousins too, Dave and Teri are 1st cousins, and Donald is Teriís son. Iíve put the info on a family tree chart to make it easier to get your head around where we all fit.
Dave and Teri share nearly twice as much DNA with Eleanor as she does with me, and Dave has also said that the amount of DNA he shares with Teri (his 1st cousin) and the amount he shares with Eleanor (his 2nd cousin) are very similar.
Our grandfathers were all brothers, but Dave, Teri and Eleanorís grandfathers were twins. Does the DNA show that their grandfathers were identical twins, do you think? Or are the variations seen within the range of difference that can naturally occur between 2nd cousins?
My feeling is that the DNA strongly suggests that William and Albert were identical twins, but I also know itís unwise to assume anything in genealogy - so Iíd value your thoughts on this.
I was glad to help Linda because she had taken the time to think it through herself, then gather the relevant information and send it to me - so even though it was approaching midnight I replied almost immediately with my thoughts.
What would you make of this puzzle? You donít need to have tested your own DNA, or even understand how DNA works, in order to figure it out - all the information you need is in the coloured chart in my Masterclass (which you'll find here). Just bear in mind that identical twins have virtually identical DNA, whereas non-identical (or fraternal) twins are no more alike genetically than any two children who share the same parents.
Don't write in to me with your answer - there are no prizes - but do please take the time to think it through carefully. As DNA puzzles go this is one of the simpler ones - because there's so much information, and the family tree is already known - but itís better to start with an easy problem, otherwise more difficult problems will seem insoluble!
Tip: all the information you need to make use of your DNA results is in the Masterclass - I've distilled years of knowledge and experience into a simple, easy to follow article, so that you donít waste your time and your money repeating the mistakes that I made in the early years. Bear in mind that if I've left something out there's almost certainly a very good reason why!
With Valentine's Day approaching there are bound to be some interesting offers, and I'll update this article with any new offers that come in before the publication of the next issue. In the meantime, here is what I know about at the time of writing:
Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand only) SAVE 25% (ends 28th January)
MyHeritage (UK) reduced from £75 to £59 (with free shipping when you order 2 or more kits)
Please use the links above so that LostCousins can benefit from your purchase - it wonít cost you a penny more, but you'll be helping me to keep this newsletter independent.
I hope that you read the free Morton Farrier short story in my Christmas Day newsletter - and enjoyed it as much as I did. The link in the article still works (but if you've started the process before and failed to complete the download, you might need to start over again).
If you want to purchase any of the books in the Forensic Genealogic series please use the links below so that you can support LostCousins - it may only be a few pence, but as my mother used to say, "Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves."
Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the talented author who created Morton Farrier, mentioned to me last September that he was reading the first book in Wendy Percival's Esme Quentin series †- and when I discovered that Wendy is a LostCousins member I couldnít resist downloading it to my Kindle.....
When freelance historical researcher Esme Quentin receives a phone call from the local hospital to let her know that her sister has been attacked and is in a coma, she puts aside her other projects and starts out on a criss-cross trail of intrigue, revenge, and murder - one in which her sister Elizabeth is a key character. Indeed, the whole story is about family ties of one sort or another - featuring adoption, illegitimacy, inheritance, desertion and more.
What was the motive for the attack - was it robbery? And was she actually attacked, or did she slip and fall? The evidence is inconclusive and even Elizabeth's daughter, Gemma questions whether Esme is on the right track.
I really enjoyed this book, and I have to say that Esme Quentin is a very likeable character - so I doubt I'll be able to resist for long the lure of the second and third books in the series (which if the online reviews are anything to go by are even better!). I suspect that before long I'll be adding Wendy Percival to my list of favourite genealogy mystery authors.
As mentioned earlier I bought the Kindle version, but itís also available as a paperback (and if youíre very lucky you might even be able to pick up a second-hand copy of the original hardback at a bargain price).
First published in 1930, but recently reissued, Unknown Warriors is a collection of letters written by Kate Luard, who was a nursing sister in France between 1914-18, having previously served during the Second Boer War. In 1917, at the height of the Battle of Passchendaele, she was in charge of a casualty clearing station with a staff of 40 nurses and almost 100 orderlies - it was an immense responsibility, but one that she seems to have borne with courage and resilience.
I first came across Kate Luard in the Essex Record Office blog - her family came from Essex, and her father was the vicar of Birch, near Colchester, for many years. You can read extracts from her 1918 letters in this blog posting, although personally I found the letters from the earlier years of the war more evocative - the mud, the blood, the noise, the shortages. My first thought was that this book would only appeal to those whose own relatives were nurses in the Great War - but then I realised the real heroes of the story are the Tommies whose suffering Kate so eloquently and sympathetically describes. There are some very moving passages, especially when she writes about soldiers who were particularly badly injured.
I read the paperback, but it is also available, at a lower price, as a Kindle book. Kate Luard was also the anonymous author of Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front, which was published during the war.
Note: I canít find Kate Luard's birth registration in any of the online indexes - can you? Her full name was Katherine Evelyn Luard, and she was born in 1872 - on 29th June, according to her Wikipedia entry and the 1939 Register, in Aveley, Essex according to the 1911 Census).
When I sent you my newsletter on 21st December I somehow managed to forget that it was the 40th anniversary of one of the most important days in my life - one without which I probably wouldn't be writing to you now.
21st December 1978 was the day that I bought my first computer, a Commodore PET with a 9in black and white screen, a cassette deck, and no disk drive, not even a floppy disk. And a massive 8k of memory - for comparison the phone in my pocket, several years old, has 20 million times as much memory, as well as being upwards of a million times faster.
As I was writing this newsletter I noticed that Martin Lewis, the consumer advice guru, had dropped his legal action against Facebook, after they agreed to make significant changes - his photo had been used in scam adverts on the site, ones that sound very similar to those I encountered on the Radio Times website in November (you can re-read my article here), and also to those mentioned in this BBC article from last week.
This article from The Guardian explains the changes the Facebook are making. And talking of Facebook, research carried out in Australia and reported in New Scientist earlier this month suggests that taking time away from Facebook reduces stress. So if youíd been wondering why LostCousins doesnít have a significant presence on Facebook, now you know why!
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......
That's all for now, but I'll be back soon - not only are there some wonderful true stories that I simply couldn't fit into this issue, I'm still getting reports of missing or duplicated blocks of entries in the GRO's birth and death indexes.
In the meantime, how about adding a few extra entries to your My Ancestors page, increasing your chances of winning a prize in my competition - and of finding some new cousins? 15 minutes could make a world of difference, not just for you but for one of your cousins.
© Copyright 2019 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?