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Newsletter – 30th January 2023



Final opportunity to save 30% at Findmypast.co.uk SAVE UP TO £54

Donor-conceived children in the UK gain rights

Coronation Chicken

Last chance to win prizes in my FREE competition ENDS MIDNIGHT TUESDAY

Not sure if you’ve entered the competition? Here’s how to check

Even more prizes now on offer

Is it OK to knit when you’re on Zoom?

Carolina in my mind: the Scottish lyrics that weren’t written by Burns

The King’s Bed – picked up for a song

What will happen to your prized possessions?

Researcher makes unexpected discovery

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 20th 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!



Final opportunity to save 30% at Findmypast.co.uk SAVE UP TO £54

Until midnight (London time) on Tuesday 31st January you can save a generous 30% on Plus and Pro subscriptions at Findmypast.co.uk (but not other Findmypast sites). Although the offer only applies to subscriptions purchased at the UK site, it doesn’t matter where you live – indeed many subscribers around the world choose the UK site for one reason or another.


Premium subscriptions are excluded from the offer – on the other hand, once you have purchased a Pro subscription you may be able to upgrade to Premium (but it’s not something I’m able to test myself as I already have a Premium subscription).


Plus subscriptions include all of Findmypast’s records for Britain and Ireland with the exception of the 1921 Census; Pro subscriptions include records from other parts of the world, as well as the British Newspaper Archive.


This offer isn’t exclusive to LostCousins – you may even receive an email from Findmypast themselves. But you’ll only be supporting LostCousins when you subscribe using the link below (remember, it’s only because of the commission we receive from the big genealogy sites that LostCousins subscriptions have remained at £10 for the past 18 years – for comparison the basic State Pension in the UK almost doubled between April 2005 and April 2023).



Findmypast.co.uk – SAVE 30% on PRO and PLUS subscriptions ENDS 31ST JANUARY


Tip: the discount applies only to your first payment, so it’s worth raiding the piggy bank and going for a 12 month subscription if you possibly can. For example, even under the offer a quarterly Plus subscription would have cost you £99.87 after 9 months, whereas if you shell out now you could have 12 months for £90.99! In addition, with a 12 month subscription you also qualify for Loyalty Discount – currently 15% – if you choose to renew at the end of the year.



Donor-conceived children in the UK gain rights

On 1st April 2005, when LostCousins was less than a year old, the law in the UK changed: donations for fertility treatment could no longer be made anonymously.


Starting two years ago, donor-conceived children who reached the age of 16 were able to request the following information about the donor:



The first 187 children donor-conceived after 1st April 2005 will reach the age of 18 towards the end of this year, and will be entitled to discover:



Of course, many donor-conceived children have already discovered the identity of the donor using DNA, just as many adoptees have done – but some have found out in other ways, as the website of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority explains. Some donors have chosen to give up their anonymity, though by November it was only 260 out of nearly 18,000.


But not all donor-conceived children are aware of the circumstances of their conception, as this article by genetic genealogy expert Debbie Kennett explains. And for the family historians of the future the outlook is more complex – identifying one’s own biological parent using DNA is relatively straightforward, but identifying the biological parent(s) of an ancestor is more complicated, especially if there are no other clues.



Coronation Chicken

Years ago, when I used to go to occasional meetings in London at which a sandwich lunch was provided, I’d make a beeline for the Coronation Chicken sandwiches – not only were they visually-distinctive, they were reliably tasty.


I thought of Coronation Chicken this weekend when I read that families whose ancestors had a role in previous Coronations were being considered for the same roles at the Coronation of King Charles III (you can find out more here – applications by Friday, please). There was an example in the Daily Telegraph which described how the family of Francis Dymoke has been involved in every Coronation since 1066 – you’ll find the article here (I suspect it will be behind a pay-wall, but if you Google the distinctive name you’ll find other similar articles).


So what inspired me to think of Coronation Chicken? I’d just received my weekly supermarket delivery, and – joy of joys – it included the large eggs that I had ordered (in recent weeks large eggs have been as scarce as hens’ teeth). It got me wondering whether any of those eggs were descended from the chickens who had contributed to Coronation Chicken 70 years ago? Probably not, considering that the meat from laying hens is tougher – on the other hand rationing was still in force, so who knows what compromises might have been made.


But even if there was a connection, how could we know? I doubt that egg producers keep records of which hen laid which egg – like human foundlings their parentage is surrounded in mystery. And whereas family historians can use DNA testing to overcome gaps in the records, this only works when there are sufficient surviving records (or memories) to which the genetic clues can be linked.


Note: the dish served at the Coronation Luncheon was officially entitled ‘Poulet Reine Elizabeth’, and the question as to which came first, the chicken or the egg doesn’t apply since there were no eggs on the handwritten menu (which you can see here – or even buy if you’ve just won the lottery!).



Last chance to win prizes in my FREE competition ENDS MIDNIGHT TUESDAY

Tuesday 31st January is a very special day – it’ll be 30 years to the day since I met my wife. But it’s also a special day for you – it’s your last opportunity to enter my annual competition!


All you need to have done is add some direct ancestors or blood relatives to your My Ancestors page between the start of the competition (7th December) and midnight, London time, on the closing date.



Not sure if you’ve entered the competition? Here’s how to check

Did you know that you can sort the entries on your My Ancestors page in 4 different ways simply by choosing the appropriate option at the top of the page? For example, if you choose Date of entry your most recent entries will be shown first.


To see the date (and time) of each entry click Show more detail, which will open up a new browser tab with more information for each entry – not just the date the entry was made, but also your relative’s maiden name (if applicable) and their baptism date (if entered).


Tip: this more detailed display is ideal if you want to copy the information on your My Ancestors page to a spreadsheet for further analysis.   



Even more prizes now on offer

On Monday 20th February Mark Bayley from The Genealogist will be giving an exclusive Zoom presentation entitled Mapping Your Ancestors – it begins at 9am (London time) which should allow members in Australia and New Zealand to attend. During the talk he’ll be featuring map-based record collections and tools available for researching your British roots.


And on Saturday 4th February I’ll be repeating the talk What DNA can really do for family historians, this time starting at 10am (London time). If you are invited to attend you will have the opportunity to submit a question in advance, by entering it in the Comments section on the My Prizes page, but I’ll also be inviting questions on the day.


If you are interested in either of these talks please update your My Prizes page accordingly – and remember that you must have entered the competition to have a chance of winning either of these opportunities (or any of the other prizes on offer).


 Here’s a reminder of all the prizes which are still up for grabs:




The TOP PRIZE this year has been generously donated by Findmypast – it’s a 12 month PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION offering virtually unlimited access to ALL of Findmypast’s billions of historical records from around the world (including the 1921 England & Wales census), modern electoral registers for the UK, and hundreds of millions of newspaper articles.


There are lots more prizes to be won, including:


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



With the TOP SUBSCRIPTION you'll have access to millions of records including Tithe Maps and records from the 1910 Land Valuation (Lloyd George Domesday) that aren't available online at any other site. You'll also have access to Map Explorer - come along to Mark Ayley's talk next month to find out more!



Janet Few 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.


Whether you win this prize or not you’ll find it worthwhile reading Janet’s excellent advice on what to do before you ask for help – you’ll find it here.



Wills are a wonderful source of information, but few family historians have mastered both the handwriting and the abbreviations.


I’m delighted that professional genealogist Dave Annal, former Principal Family History Specialist at The National Archives, and author of numerous books has offered to transcribe up to 4 pages from 1 or 2 wills submitted by the prize-winner (provided they are written in English rather than Latin).


Dave Annal’s blog is a great source of tips, and if you haven’t read his June 2021 post Walls Come Tumbling Down I would thoroughly recommend it – you’ll find the article here.



More family historians read this newsletter than any other independent genealogy publication, so just imagine what might happen if you were able to reach out to the readership!


Whether you have an ancestor who disappeared off the face of the earth, someone you can’t identify in a photograph, or any other family history-related mystery, if you’re the prize-winner I’ll give you up to a page in the newsletter to explain the problem and appeal for help solving it.


To have a chance of winning any of these wonderful prizes, all you need to do is enter my competition by adding relatives to your My Ancestors page, and indicate which prizes you are most interested in on your My Prizes page. Forgotten how to log-in to your LostCousins account? No problem, just click here and enter your email address (as shown in the text of the email you received telling you about this newsletter).



There can’t be many people reading this who haven’t tested their DNA, but what about your cousins? One of the best ways to knock down a ‘brick wall’ using DNA is to persuade a cousin who shares the same ‘brick wall’ to test. They don’t need to be interested in family history – though they will need a free Ancestry account in order to register their test (they can then assign the management of the test to you, as many of my own cousins have done).


I have a spare Ancestry DNA kit which I will post either to the winner or the person they nominate – but it must be a UK address, as this is a UK kit. As with all of the other prizes, you can only win if you enter the competition (by adding to your My Ancestors page) and indicating your interest in your My Prizes page.




LostCousins member Terri has generously donated this prize, which currently sells for $119 (it’s the version with traits). It can be posted to the winner or the person they nominate but it must be a US address.


Thanks again to Terri for making this test available – what a wonderful gesture!



Other prizes include opportunities to attend exclusive Zoom presentations, with limited audiences so that everyone who wants to can ask a question (if you are on the guest list you will also have the opportunity to submit a question in advance, if you prefer).



The Society of Genealogists (SoG) was founded in 1911, so to be the genealogist at the Society is arguably the most  prestigious position imaginable!


Else Churchill is not only extremely knowledgeable, she is a wonderful communicator – she spoke at both of the Genealogy in the Sunshine conferences that I organised in Portugal (in 2014 and 2015), and I was delighted when she accepted my invitation to speak to LostCousins members via Zoom. DATE TO BE ARRANGED



The leading expert on English marriage law and customs over the centuries, Professor Probert is the author of numerous books – both academic textbooks and easily understood guides for family historians like you and me.


Her best known book is the ground-breaking Marriage Law for Genealogists which debunked many of the myths that have seduced previous generations of family historians – you can read my review here.


Professor Probert will give a Zoom presentation followed by a Q&A session, but there will also be the opportunity to submit questions in advance by entering them in the comments section of your My Prizes page. The presentation will commence at 10am (London time) on Saturday 11th February – put the date in your diary now in case you’re one of the lucky ones!


WENDY PERCIVAL – interview with the author of the Esme Quentin mysteries

What I like most about genealogical mysteries is the continuity from one book in a series to the next – I feel that with each book I get to know a little bit more about the lead character. I can’t say that I’ve ever identified with Esme Quentin, the hero of Wendy Percival’s highly-popular books, but she’s certainly a convincing amalgam of some of the researchers I’ve come across since founding LostCousins back in 2004.


I’ll be interviewing Wendy Percival via Zoom, asking questions that have intrigued me – and hopefully some that have intrigued you. If you are fortunate enough to be in the audience you’ll also have a chance to ask questions – but please don’t expect Wendy to reveal very much about book 5 in the series, you’ll have to wait until it is released!


The interview will commence at 7pm (London time) on Monday 6th February. I’m aiming to send out the invitations no later than Friday.



Is it OK to knit when you’re on Zoom?

I was amused to read in this BBC article that a councillor has been criticised for knitting during a Zoom meeting – because my sister-in-law is almost always knitting when we have a family Zoom.


I couldn’t see anyone knitting when I gave a DNA talk on Wednesday, but on the other hand I could only see two-thirds of the attendees – the other third either didn’t have a camera, or had it turned off. For all I know they could have been knitting, eating, or yawning – well, hopefully not yawning (though since some had got up at 5am to hear me it would have been perfectly understandable).


Even now, three years into the pandemic, there is a significant minority of family historians who have yet to make use of Zoom or other similar tools (such as Skype, Facetime, or Microsoft Teams), even though they’re both free and freely used by people of all ages. I did once consider having a Zoom event for first-timers, but I’m not sure that anyone would show up!


From my point of view, as a speaker, being able to deliver a presentation remotely is wonderful – I’ve given many more talks in many more places than I could ever have done before. For example, even though I previously limited my talks to Essex, my home county, I typically spent twice as long travelling to and from the venue as I did speaking and answering questions. Now I can talk to people all over the world without leaving my study!



Carolina in my mind: the Scottish lyrics that weren’t written by Burns

I’d never heard of Lady Carolina Nairne until I read this article, published on Burns Night. How can someone so talented have been forgotten?



The King’s Bed – picked up for a song

Traditionally the sovereign sleeps at the Palace of Westminster – conveniently close to Westminster Abbey – on the night before the Coronation, although the last monarch to do so was George IV in 1821.


The State Bed was damaged by fire – possibly when the House of Parliament burned down in 1834, and a new bed was constructed in 1859. 6 feet long and 12 feet high it was an impressive piece of furniture (though it wouldn’t be long enough for me!), but it wasn’t used by Edward VII in 1902, nor by any of his successors. Queen Elizabeth II would have fitted into it comfortably (she was 5 ft 4in at her tallest), but she didn’t have the option because at some point in the 1940s it disappeared.


It wasn’t until 1979 that an expert from the Victoria & Albert Museum started asking about the whereabouts of the bed, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Northamptonshire family who had purchased the bed – in pieces – for £100 in an auction in the mid-1960s realised that what an important piece of furniture it was. You can read more about this fascinating story in this BBC article.


What will happen to your prized possessions?

For me, the story in the previous article was a reminder that when we’re no longer around to answer questions our descendants and/or beneficiaries may have no idea what certain possessions meant to us – whether they are family heirlooms, or simply acquired along the way.


Sadly many family heirlooms end up being sold at auction – I know that, like me, some of you have acquired photograph albums and other items with the intention of reconnecting them with the families that once owned them (and you may remember me telling how I succeeded in reuniting an 1838 sampler with descendants of the family). However my first acquisition of this nature was rather different – it was an archive of family correspondence, many hundreds of letters sent to a Victorian lady in the 1840s and 1850s, some before her marriage (to a wealthy Member of Parliament) and some afterwards.


That acquisition, in December 1993, meant that my future wife and I spent our first Christmas together looking inside envelopes at letters that had been unseen for 150 years. I cannot understand how the family – which still owns the stately home where that Victorian lady lived – could have parted with them, but perhaps the fact that she died and her husband not only remarried but changed his name to incorporate his wife’s surname might have had something to do with it.


What will you do to ensure that your prized possessions will means as much to your beneficiaries as they do to you? Much of our family history research can be replicated by someone with the time and the skills, but most physical items are irreplaceable.


Tip: although our research could be replicated, consider how much better it would be if you could pass your research on to someone who – even if they had not plans to continue it – would recognise its importance to you, and safeguard it for the benefit of future generations? At LostCousins you can enter the email address of your ‘beneficiary’ on your My Details page – indeed, ours was the first website to offer this option, which some much better-known sites have belatedly copied.



Researcher makes unexpected discovery

One of best things about researching our family history is the way that it teaches us to be sceptical about stories, whether we hear them from family members or read them in the newspapers, and cultivates research skills that we can use in most areas of our lives.


A real bonus is when we discover something unexpected in a genealogical database: for example, searching the British Newspaper Archive recently I came across a 1970 advertisement in a local paper offering a house for rent at the princely sum of 20 guineas a week. Nothing unusual about that, you might think – prior to decimalisation things were often priced in guineas (these days it’s only racehorses) – but this particular house happens to be where my wife and I now live, so for us it’s a clue to our house history.


We knew who owned the house from the deeds, but this is the first evidence that it was let out during the 1970s. Particularly fascinating are the details of the accommodation – each room is listed, so whilst there is no floor plan it’s possible to relate it to what can we can see now.


We did know that it had been rented out in the 1950s – not long after moving in I put a postcard in the window of our local post office seeking old computers (collecting them is a hobby of mine), and one of the respondents told me that he lived here for a few years after he married. He even had a photograph which showed the house in the background, though as all that was visible was a brick wall (don’t we love those!) it could have been almost anywhere.


That was a really unexpected discovery – but then most discoveries are unexpected. Rather like Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, I was looking for something completely different.


Tip: you can access the 63 million pages in the British Newspaper Archive either at the BNA site, or via Findmypast (a Pro or Premium subscription is required). As it happens I made my discovery at Findmypast, but I use the dedicated site for repeated searches as it allows me to restrict the results to articles added to the database since my last search.



Stop Press

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2023 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?


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