Newsletter - 28th July 2019

 

 

Cost of post-1858 wills falls by an amazing 85%

Use logic, not instinct

Understanding the new GRO indexes

Findmypast.co.uk offer ENDS WEDNESDAY

When is a cousin not a cousin?

Scottish Court of Session Archive

What is an Online Parish Clerk?

Stormin Mormon

Ancient grease: follow-up

Which? to review ancestry tests

Taking an mtDNA journey?

The pros and cons of medical DNA testing

5 million Britons to be offered free DNA tests

How accurate are medical DNA tests?

Not everything is black and white

Dating London, building by building

Growing up in London 1930-1960

Review: Thora Hird's Book of Bygones

Review: The NES Encyclopedia

Dog DNA afternoon ENDS WEDNESDAY

Peter's Tips

Stop Press

 

The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 16th July) 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!

 

 

Cost of post-1858 wills falls by an amazing 85%

With effect from Monday 22nd July the cost of obtaining copies of post-1858 wills from the Probate Service fell from £10 to just £1.50 - even less than I paid when I first started researching! Even better, the order I placed on Monday was fulfilled on Wednesday (though I suspect that the delivery time will have lengthened since then).

 

Wills can be a great source of information - but they can also be a source of disappointment. For example, wills donít always name the beneficiaries - the testator could simply refer to their surviving children. Even when beneficiaries are named, wills executed many years prior to death might not have up to date information about the beneficiaries - some may have died or remarried. The bulk of the estate may have been handed over during the testator's lifetime - this is common where there is a family business, and doesnít necessarily indicate an attempt to minimise death duties (although this might be one effect). A will leaving everything to the surviving spouse could be extremely brief, and may provide no new information.

 

Not everyone makes a will, but most people do - however there are many wills that you wonít find by searching the probate calendars, whether at a genealogy site (I normally use Ancestry for post-1858 probate searches), or at the free government site (Find a will). That's because not all wills go to probate - this article explains the circumstances in which probate is not required.

 

Whilst the probate calendars give the value of the estate and the names of the executor(s) or administrator(s), they don't give the names of the beneficiaries. Sometimes theyíre one and the same, but you'd be foolish to make this assumption - which conveniently brings me on to my next topic.

 

 

Use logic, not instinct

If you bought Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking, Fast and Slow after reading my review in September 2016 you'll know all about type 1 and type 2 thinking. One is automatic, or instinctive - the other involves cool-headed calculation and logic.

 

Family history is very personal - we not only have a genetic connection to the subjects of our research, we also have a tendency to develop an emotional connection, even with ancestors who we never met. This means that we can become convinced of things even though we donít have any hard evidence (and sometimes no evidence at all). Family stories are a common source of misunderstandings, partly because they almost always get garbled on their way down the generations, but also because we tend to have a rosy view of our ancestors, even when the facts donít justify it.

 

The best advice I can give you - indeed, the best advice anyone can give you - is to follow the evidence, wherever it leads. If you expend all of your time and energy on trying to prove that a particular story is true youíre setting yourself up for failure - smart researchers set out to prove that the stories aren't true.

 

 

Understanding the new GRO indexes

I've written many times about the differences between the GRO's new (2016) online indexes of births and deaths, and the original quarterly indexes, which many of us used to refer to at the Family Records Centre (or St Catherine's House, or even Somerset House), and are now available online at FreeBMD and other sites. As far back as November 2016, less than a week after the official release I published an article entitled What you really need to know about the GRO's new birth and death indexes in which I gave an example of how my great-grandmother's birth was recorded differently (because she was illegitimate).

 

Just because an entry you've found in the quarterly indexes canít be found in the new indexes doesnít mean that it's missing altogether - for example, because of the limited search options it's difficult to find an entry unless you know (or can guess) how the surname was spelled. If it has been recorded under a completely different surname your chance of finding the entry is virtually nil.... or is it?

 

Take another look at that 2016 article - note that my ancestor's birth was recorded in the quarterly index under both surnames, but in the new index it was recorded only under the surname of the father. Now, we can argue until the cows come home whether that is the most helpful way in which it could have been indexed, but it's the protocol that the GRO chose to adopt, so presumably it works for them.

 

This week I received an email from a LostCousins member who had contacted the GRO about an entry that was apparently missing from their birth index, even though it was recorded in the original quarterly index. The response from the GRO was that the index was correct and that no amendment was required - and as you can imagine, it wasn't the reply that the customer hoped for. Rightly or wrongly I assumed that the member concerned had a shrewd idea who the parents of the child were, and was merely seeking the confirmation that the mother's maiden name would have provided - and it was only after exchanging several emails that I realised this case might be similar to that of my great-grandmother.

 

The child concerned was John Stephen Lovelock, whose birth was registered in Shoreditch registration district in the first quarter of 1846:

 

 

Unfortunately you canít search the new indexes without a surname, so if the birth had been indexed under a different surname, how was I going to find it?

 

Very easily, as it turned out - clicking the page number in the FreeBMD search results displayed all of the entries in the index that related to that page:

 

 

The first thing to note is that there are 11 entries listed even though there are normally no more than 10 entries per register page; this could indicate that one of the entries has been incorrectly transcribed, and belongs on another page, but in this case what stands out is the entry for John Stephen Riggs - is it possible that the Riggs and Lovelock entries relate to the same child?

 

It certainly is, because when I searched at the GRO site for John Stephen Riggs born 1846, this was the result:

 

 

Note that there's a dash where the mother's maiden surname would normally be - which means that the mother and father weren't married. We now know why John Stephen Lovelock doesnít appear in the new birth index - itís because Lovelock was his mother's surname.

 

But you can't tell from looking at an entry in the new birth index whether the birth of an illegitimate child has been indexed under the father's surname or the mother's surname - this entry for Esther Till, the younger sister of my great-great grandmother Emma Till, looks similar to the one above, but it's registered under the mother's surname (because the name of the father doesnít appear on the certificate, although she gave his name as David Pilkington when she married in 1868):

 

 

Esther Till took the surname Pilkington at some point between the 1851 and 1861 censuses, and married under that name, causing some confusion for her descendants; John Stephen Lovelock seems never to have been known by his father's surname - he died before his first birthday.

 

The moral of this tale is that tempting though it is to assume that the GRO have got it wrong, that wonít always be the case; transcription errors do happen, but not every discrepancy can or should be accounted for in this way. If the GRO say that no change to their indexes is required, consider why that might be - after all, they might be right!

 

 

 

Findmypast.co.uk offer ENDS WEDNESDAY

New subscribers to Findmypast.co.uk can save 30% on a 3 month Plus or Pro subscription - but only until midnight on Wednesday 31st July. I've been told by members outside the UK that they were able to take advantage of this offer, which is good news if your main research interests are in the British Isles.

 

Please use this link so that LostCousins can benefit from your purchase - thanks! If the link seems not to work, try logging out from Findmypast.

 

Note: the discount only applies to the first 3 months of your new subscription, but you can always cancel ahead of renewal (just don't leave it to the last moment!).

 

 

When is a cousin not a cousin?

The terms 'cousin', 'kinsman', and 'blood relation' or 'blood relative' mean the same thing - theyíre referring to people who share the same ancestor (unlike members of Scottish clans, who might simply be followers). Either two people share ancestors or they don't - so I can understand where blogger Dick Eastman was coming from when he wrote a while back that there's no such thing as a half-cousin.

 

However in genealogy it's helpful to be more specific about relationships when we can, so I have always felt the terms half-cousin and double cousin to be useful - and now that DNA is so much a part of mainstream genealogy it would be really confusing if we didnít use those terms in appropriate cases.

 

At LostCousins we generally use the term cousin to refer to living cousins, and blood relatives to refer to the cousins that we find on the censuses. Anyone descended from a cousin of yours is also a cousin - or to put it into a more modern context, a cousin is someone with whom you potentially share DNA (I say 'potentially', because once you go beyond 2nd cousins there's no guarantee that there will be shared DNA - there are two 2nd cousins once removed in my tree who do not share any DNA, a discovery that at first rang alarm bells!).

 

From time to time somebody tells me that they donít have any cousins, or that they know all of their cousins - neither of which can be true since we're all related!

 

 

Scottish Court of Session Archive

I don't have any Scottish ancestors (as far as I know), so I'd never heard of the Scottish Court of Session Archive, which is based at the University of Virginia Law Library. Records from the 18th and 19th centuries have recently been digitized and are now available online - so if you have Scottish ancestry, it's another place to search.

 

When I searched for the surname BURNS (which, as it happens, does appear in my tree) it came up with a number of results, including the famous poet - it seems he was named in an 1804 case involving the copyright in his letters to a lady named Clarinda. You can read what happened here.

 

 

What is an Online Parish Clerk?

Online Parish Clerks are volunteers who gather together historical information and transcribed records relating to a particular parish (some OPCs cover multiple parishes). Coverage varies - the counties with the best coverage by far are Lancashire and Cornwall - this link takes you to the Lancashire site, which has links to OPC sites for 10 other counties.

 

 

Stormin Mormon

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormon church, is primarily responsible for the fact that there is so much information online for family historians to search and browse - I regularly use their free FamilySearch site, and anyone who doesn't is missing out. There are also hundreds of LDS Family History Centres around the world where you can view digitised parish registers, as well as other records - because of rights restrictions only a small fraction of the collection is available online.

 

So I was very interested to hear from John that thanks to DNA he'd discovered a previously unsuspected Mormon branch in his own tree - an enormous branch, as it turned out:

 

"Many moons ago (c1990), I knew my ggg grandfather was Samuel Wooding, b1807 in North Buckinghamshire, an area I knew well though had no idea my roots were there. An uncommon name but not in N Bucks nor neighbouring Bedfordshire. So I gave up on his parents, though on the IGI I had found a possible. I noted that, but was as sceptical of private entries then as I am now of Ancestry trees. I actually visited the church at Emberton but never got around to the registers as I was busy checking other lines.

 

"Fast forward to 2016: looking at my Family Tree DNA matches, one in the USA popped up that looked worth investigating. I emailed my usual list of surnames, only half expecting a reply, let alone a positive answer, but back came 'Yes, I've Wooding ancestors from Emberton.' Wow.....

 

"But that was only the start! I was to find that not only did I now have confirmed 4G grandparents, but that Samuel's sister Sarah emigrated with the Mormons to Salt Lake City. Her son, Samuel Smith, is regarded by them as a 'pioneer', ie travelling from Liverpool to New Orleans, up the Mississippi to Nauvoo, then by waggon train to Utah in the mid 1800s. He was a founder of Brigham City and had 5 simultaneous wives & 52 children (yes, you read that correctly). His brother founded the most westward settlement of the Mormons in the foothills of the Rockies. Needless to say, I have discovered quite a few cousins over there!

 

A quick search on the FamilySearch site turned up this page, which shows Samuel Smith's many wives and children - he canít have got much sleep. There's more elsewhere on the site, according to John.

 

Researching our family tree always leads to discoveries, but testing our DNA takes us to the next level, making links across generations, across continents, across oceans, and across religious and cultural boundaries. It's no wonder that some people are so scared of what they might discover that they refuse to test!

 

 

Ancient grease: follow-up

Earlier this month I linked to a document that explained how machines were lubricated in the centuries before crude oil was exploited - you can see my newsletter article here. But it seems that I wasn't the only person thinking along these lines - just a few days later a research paper was published which speculated that pig fat could have been used to lubricate the sledges that the builders of Stonehenge used to transport megaliths weighing up to 30 tons.

 

The use of pig fat to grease industrial machinery continued into the 20th century, and perhaps even into the 21st - after the newsletter article appeared I received an email from a reader in the US who told me that:

 

"My first job out of grad school in the mid 1970s was for a major US paper company. I occasionally had to visit the mills. They usually gave a personal guided tour on a first visit. At their earliest mill near the HQ the tour guide pointed out one of their original (late 1800's) paper machines still running at terrific speed and the large slab of 'fat back' lubricant (that had to be replaced regularly as it wore down) held in place by a weight resting on top for each axle end that nested on an open cradle.

 

"There's a good chance that it or other early large industrial machines are still running today with this lubricant."

 

Indeed, if you look up the term 'grease' in a dictionary youíre likely to find that the first definition is 'softened animal fat'.

 

 

 

Which? to review ancestry tests

Consumer magazine Which? is planning to write about DNA testing for genealogy, and on page 47 of the August 2019 edition they're asking for subscribers who have used one of the online services to get in touch. Last time they wrote about DNA testing they focused on ethnicity estimates but, of course, that's not why most people test (at least, not if they're researching their ancestors) - so let's make sure that the family historian's side of the story is properly represented!

 

 

[OFFER COMMENCES 1ST AUGUST]

 

Taking an mtDNA journey?

For most of us, taking an mtDNA test is likely to be an expensive waste of money - mtDNA can only tell about a single line, and because it mutates so slowly there's little chance of finding someone who has a common direct maternal line ancestor within a genealogical timeframe (ie since records began). But for some of us knowing where one of our billions of ancestral lines originated is interesting - and now that Family Tree DNA have produced a customised video for each person who has taken their full-sequence mtDNA test it'sa little more fun for the rest of us.

 

Debbie Kennett, DNA expert and long-time LostCousins member, recently posted a link to her mtDNA video on Twitter - but this link will work even if you arenít on Twitter. It's only 4 minutes long, and if you enjoy it, why not take a look at my mtDNA video, which you'll find here (note the differences and the similarities). Note that while Debbie doesnít have any exact matches, which suggests that even her closest mtDNA cousins share ancestors several thousand years ago, I have two exact matches, so there's a chance we share a common ancestor in the past 500 years. However, the cousin I found over 6 years ago hasnít replied to my emails, and I've so far been unable to find any connection with the cousin I found 3 years ago.

 

Tip: if you've been following the advice in my DNA Masterclass you'll know that finding surnames that your cousins have in common with you is the easiest way to figure out how the two of you are related. However, because surnames are passed from father to son in most societies, whereas mtDNA is inherited from one's mother, surnames are extremely unlikely to provide any useful clues - birthplaces are the only guide we have. My closest mtDNA cousins have ancestors from Cornwall and Berkshire - neither of them counties which appear in my direct maternal line, which currently terminates in Surrey.

 

 

The pros and cons of medical DNA testing

When I first started writing about DNA in 2006 I was rightly sceptical whether the tests then available could deliver useful results for genealogists - and they certainly weren't cheap. But prices were falling, and new tests were being introduced - in my December 2007 newsletter I wrote about the introduction of the 23andMe health test:

 

DNA TESTING REACHES THE NEXT LEVEL

 

Sequencing the entire human genome, with 3 billion letters, took several years and costs billions of dollars, but in October this year Craig Venter, who headed one of the projects, predicted that the cost will fall to just $100,000 by 2010.

 

At present DNA tests, even those used by the police, look at just a few dozen marker. But two announcements made since our last newsletter threaten to transform DNA testing.

 

deCODE genetics, based in Iceland, and 23andMe, a California start-up company, are each offering a new service that for around $1000 will scan an individual's entire genome looking at markers that indicate susceptibility to medical conditions.

 

Although 23andMe is a start-up company, one of the founders is Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google. Their test uses a 3in by 1in silicon wafer with over half a million detectors, each of which detects a different SNP.

 

[Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms are points where one letter of the genetic code has been replaced with another.]

 

It's not immediately clear what direct implications these announcements have for genetic DNA testing, but one thing is clear - over the next few years DNA tests are going to become cheaper and more powerful!

 

The same technology is indeed now used for genetic DNA testing, but the cost is far lower than $1000 - less than $100, in fact. Last year I paid around $200 to have my entire genome sequenced, compared to the projected cost of $100,000 in 2010.

 

As I understand it, companies that offer both health and ancestry testing use the same chip and generate the same raw data - the difference is that to provide health information to users requires them to comply with regulatory requirements, which inevitably differ between countries - and this could mean that which genetic risk factors youíre informed about will depend on where you live, as well as which company you test with.

 

Up to now 23andMe have dominated the market for health-related, but recent announcements from Ancestry and MyHeritage (whose test is already on sale) suggest that there will be more competition, which should benefit customers. Whilst it's likely they'll all be subject to the same regulatory controls, they use different chips - which look at different genetic markers. Ancestry have clearly been planning to enter the health area for a long time - their current version 2 chip, the one that has been used to process the majority of the 15 million or so tests that they've sold, is designed for combined health and genealogy testing.

 

Note: Ancestry switched to a different chip in May 2016; approximately 300,000 of the SNPs chosen for genealogy purposes were replaced with health-related SNPs. Although this sounds like a downgrade for those of us who are primarily interested in family history, it was stated at the time that the SNPs that had been removed were largely redundant, because they tended to be correlated with other SNPs which were being retained.

 

Wouldnít it be wonderful if we all knew which diseases and medical conditions we were likely to succumb to before it happened, so that we could change our lifestyle and/or take preventative medication? Maybe, but maybe not - for a start, different personalities would deal with the information in different ways. Some might be fatalistic, others would worry but do nothing, a few might go to such great extremes to avoid condition A that they end up developing condition B, and so on.

 

Something else to bear in mind is that most genetic markers only indicate a heightened (or, more rarely) reduced risk of contracting a particular disorder. But perhaps most significant is that genetics has turned out to be a lot more complex than anyone ever imagined - it isn't simply a question of finding one gene that determines height, intelligence, or predisposition to this or that disorder. Over 400 areas of the genome have been found (see this 2014 report) to correlate with height, and the list is only going to get bigger, since the genes identified so far only account for a small percentage of variation in height.

 

Another factor to consider is that many disorders are extremely rare - a doubled risk of contracting something that only affects one person in a million really isnít something to worry about. It would be much more useful to know about a 1% increase in one's predisposition to diabetes or heart disease.

 

 

5 million Britons to be offered free DNA tests

According to an article on the Telegraph website this week, the National Health Service are planning to offer free DNA tests to 5 million people in the UK, funded by £79m from the

government and £160m from charities and businesses. Individuals will receive a personalised analysis, but the other side of the coin is that their anonymised results will be used for "research on early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease including dementia and cancer".

 

Some people will probably object to their DNA being used - but since the number of tests on offer is so low (compared to the population) it's unlikely that a few refuseniks will affect the success of the project. The only problem would be if people from a particular ethnic background all refused to test, because this would put them at a disadvantage when new treatments are being developed.

 

Note: I've always taken the view that to have my DNA in a database that it being used for medical purposes means that I'm more likely to get the treatments I need in the future.

 

 

How accurate are medical DNA tests?

A recent paper has revealed that when very rare genetic variants are found, they're usually false positives. Although the paper has created a bit of a stir, itís really a bit of a storm in a teacup, because anyone with a basic knowledge of statistics could have predicted these findings, and here's why.....

 

Suppose that a test is 99.9% accurate, ie that it only returns the wrong result one time in 1000 - you'd probably consider it highly reliable. But if the condition itís detecting only occurs one time in a million, testing a million people will lead to roughly 1000 false positives, but only one true positive result. Looking at it another way, only one out 1001 positive results is a genuine positive. So, even though it's right 999 times out of 1000 overall, when it returns a positive result it's almost always going to be wrong - this is why taking medical tests as a precaution isn't always such a good idea.

 

Note: this issue doesnít only apply to genetic testing - most medical tests produce a high proportion of false positives. There's a good reason for this - a false negative result could be fatal - so the tendency is to err on the side of caution.

 

Genealogists don't need to worry - SNPs chosen for genealogical purposes never involve rare variants. But those who are intent on utilising the health information from their DNA tests might be wise to test with more than one provider - though bear in mind that although there's often a significant overlap, different providers test different SNPs. You might also consider taking a full genome test as this utilises different technology.

 

Another factor that limits the value of medical DNA testing is the shortage of advisors - most GPs simply donít have the training (or the time). This article in Wired magazine reports on the situation in the US, whilst according to last week's New Scientist there are only about 200 genetic counsellors in the whole of England.

 

Finally, if youíve tested your DNA for genealogical purposes, but want to know what medical information there is hidden in your autosomal DNA results, you can upload them to a site called Promethease, which will - for about $12 - give you a report based on the latest science (it uses the SNPedia database). I've done it, and it's scary - there will be good bits and bad bits, but it'll be the bad things that keep you awake at night. Not recommended for the faint-hearted.

 

 

Not everything is black and white

An article in The Guardian this week focused on a community in Ohio where the inhabitants identify as black, even though many of them look white, and know of only one distant black ancestor.

 

Can we be defined by a small part of our ancestry? I'm around 6% German, but think of myself as English; my mother-in-law is 50% English but regards herself as Welsh - in each case we identify with the place where we were born. But my wife, who was born and raised a few miles away from me in Essex, considers herself Welsh - you can imagine the tensions in our household earlier this year as the Six Nations Rugby came to a climax (at least we're on the same side when it comes to cricket - for now).

 

Given the nature of our research family historians ought to have a better perspective on who we are than most, but there are many who are so proud of their ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower, or travelled with the First Fleet, that that small part of their inheritance seems to completely overwhelm the rest. It's rather like knowing that you're descended from William the Conqueror - most English people are, but only a few of us can actually prove it - and this 2013 article in Nature concludes that any two Europeans will have many common ancestors who lived 1000 years ago.

 

And as this BBC article from 2012 explains, there's no reason to doubt the Bible when it states that Jesus was a descendant of King David, because it's likely that the entire population was descended from him - one way or another.

 

If you watched the mtDNA videos that I linked to above you'll know that both Debbie Kennett and I are related to Cheddar Man on our maternal line - but he lived 9,000 years ago, so the chances are that all English people are related to him in one way or another. Indeed, if Cheddar Man has any living descendants at all, he's probably an ancestor of every European!

 

 

Dating London, building by building

The Colouring London site - hosted by University College, London - is aiming to collect and share information about London's buildings, including their approximate date of construction. It's still in beta - itís due to launch in October, but it could be of enormous interest to those of us with ancestors who lived in the London area.

 

 

Growing up in London 1930-1960

Even into the 1960s there were many houses that didnít have plumbed-in toilets - the house I live in now had no bathroom in the 1950s, and a good friend of mine had to install a bathroom when he and his wife bought their East Ham home in 1980. Reading these extracts from Growing Up In London 1930-1960 will be sobering for those of you who had cosseted upbringings (as I did, growing up on an estate that was built just before WW2):

 

"We had a ghastly backyard with an outside toilet, with the Daily Herald cut up in squares and hanging from a corner on a nail."

 

"Every room had a chamber pot, a gazunder. The only lavatory was in the yard and impossible to keep clean, invaded by leaves and spiders, and yes, we did wipe our bums on squares of newspaper held together by string on a nail on the wall. The alternative was Jeyes, sold in rectangular boxes with a slit in front, the paper too stiff and crackly to be effective."

 

"The toilet was at the end of the yard. It was unheated and had newspapers cut into squares for loo paper. On some occasions when we were really lucky there was paper which had been used to wrap oranges. This was luxury indeed because it was clean and soft."

 

Those quotes are from p.36 of the book - I'm sure they bring back memories for some of you, but whether theyíre happy memories or not.... perhaps some of you will share your own memories?

 

Stocks of the book have now sold out - congratulations to everyone who secured an autographed copy. But thanks to the generosity of Peter Cox, the author, you can download a PDF copy of the book from the new Peters Tips page of the LostCousins site.

 

Note: you'll need to log-in first - your log-in name is the email address shown in the message that told you about this newsletter; if you can't remember your password you can get an instant, automated, email using the Password reminder link. Alternatively, if youíd like me to reset your password just let me know by email.

 

 

Review: Thora Hird's Book of Bygones

The extracts that I've been featuring from Growing Up In London 1930-1960 have inspired many readers - and one of them told me about this little book with memories and anecdotes from Thora Hird, once one of Britain's most-loved actresses (she continued acting until her death in 2003 at the age of 91).

 

I found it amusing as well as interesting (she was, after all, best known as a comedienne), though it doesnít cover nearly as much ground as Peter Cox's wonderful book. Nevertheless, as I was able to pick up a nearly new copy for just 1p (plus shipping) through Amazon I was very happy with my purchase! You might have more difficulty picking up a copy at a bargain price if you live outside the UK, but I've included links anyway:

 

Amazon,co,uk††††††††††††††††††† Amazon.com†††††††††† ††††††††† Amazon.ca††††††††††††††††††††††† ebay.co.uk

 

 

Review: The NES Encyclopedia

As some of you will know, I did have a life before family history - in 1978, after being made redundant for the 2nd time in 5 years, I resolved to strike out on my own, founding a software development and publishing business which ultimately ended up publishing games for both computers and consoles like Sega and Nintendo. So when I was invited to review The NES Encyclopedia: Every Game Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System I knew that it would include the two games that my company developed for that rather primitive, but massively popular, console.

 

Although there's no connection between computer games and family history (or, at least, not one that I can think of) I realised that there would be a lot of readers of this newsletter who are younger than me, and grew up playing early console games - and that's why I decided to include this brief review in the newsletter. It's part of my life, it could also be part of yours.

 

In case youíre wondering, the games I was responsible were Loopz and Krusty's Fun House, although my company doesnít get a mention in the entry for Loopz (as we subcontracted the writing of the NES version, and it was published by an American company who were close to Nintendo). It didnít change the world, but I got to shake the hand of Shigeru Miyamoto on p.109 (and even if you donít know who he is, Wikipedia certainly does). My only regret - I mislaid his business card! Reading the entry for Krusty's Fun House on p.109 I spotted a minor slip - it says that the game was originally developed for the Amiga under the title Rat Trap, which is true, but it was never released under that name (as the book implies).

 

Is it a book worth buying? There are over 1000 games, mostly officially-licensed by Nintendo (as mine were), each with a brief description, a single screenshot, and a fact bubble. If you can no longer remember the names of the games you played in your youth, or want to tell your grandchildren about them, it's a very comprehensive resource. But if you donít remember the NES, or you never played the games, it's less likely to appeal = despite the glowing reviews at Amazon - all of which give the book 5 stars.

 

Only available in hardback at the moment, it would make a great coffee table book - everyone has heard of Super Mario Bros, and even if they havenít played it, most games players will have played one of its successors (the three Super Mario games published for the NES each get a full page, and deservedly so - other games get just a quarter of a page). The published price of £30 isnít expensive for a book like this - itís in colour throughout - but Amazon are selling it in the UK for 30% less, which makes it more affordable (and Wordery were even cheaper, when I checked just now). There is a paperback version coming, if youíre prepared to wait, but if you can pick up the hardback at a good price I reckon itís worth the extra.

 

Amazon.co.uk††††††††††††††††††† Amazon.com†††††††††† ††††††††† Amazon.ca††††††††††††††††††††††† Wordery

 

 

 

Dog DNA afternoon ENDS WEDNESDAY

Wisdom Panel are offering a £15 discount on their canine DNA test - the biggest yet - but only until Wednesday 31st July. Use the code MUTTDAY2019 at the checkout to secure your discount, and please use this link to that LostCousins can also benefit.

 

 

Peter's Tips

Some of the most interesting books I've bought in the past few years have come from the charity stall at one of the supermarkets I frequent. Books that are well out of date aren't of interest to the average shopper, but to someone like me they can be a goldmine of information - and they've been the inspiration for quite a few articles in this newsletter!

 

I drink two large mugs of freshly-brewed black coffee every morning, but over the course of a week they cost me less than half of the price of a single cup in a coffee shop. And whereas when smart young professionals make coffee they damage the environment (and their bank accounts) by using pods, I simply spoon the coffee into my stainless-steel insulated cafetiŤre, and add boiling water. Or rather, I donít - because if you want the best-tasting coffee you shouldn't use boiling water, a temperature of 92 degrees is recommended. Whilst itís possible to purchase expensive kettles with thermostats I take a simpler, but equally effective approach, adding a little cold water from the tap before stirring in the near-boiling water from the kettle.

 

Drinking liquids that are near boiling point isnít very healthy either - so I add a little more cold water to my mug. Cold milk would be just as effective, but I only take milk in instant coffee (which is a completely different drink).

 

The mobile phone provider that I use, GiffGaff, has once again topped the Which? survey of mobile phone users - I've lost count of how many years in a row it is. What I like about GiffGaff is that I'm not tied to them in any way - I buy a package each month (known as a 'Goody Bag') but am under no obligation to buy another one, and I can always take a break. In fact I used to take a break when I went on holiday abroad, but now that calls made within the EU are included as part of my package I just continue as normal.

 

For some time all Goody Bags from £10 upwards have included unlimited calls and texts - and from the middle of next month they're doubling the data allowance on most packages. The £10 Goody Bag I normally purchase goes up from 3Gb to 6Gb, enough to watch a couple of movies in HD resolution (or send hundreds of thousands of emails, something I'm far more likely to do). If you'd like to try GiffGaff follow this link (you'll get £5 free credit the first time you top-up).

 

Incidentally, if £10 a month sounds a lot to pay for phone calls, I should make it clear that I donít make calls on my landline - I only use it for incoming calls - so what I save on the home phone virtually pays for my mobile. Indeed, if I wasn't running LostCousins I'd probably be able to ditch the landline altogether (a £20 Goody Bag includes a massive 40Gb of data).

 

Do you still have any old-style £1 coins? They ceased to be legal tender in 2017, but apparently most banks will allow you to pay them into your account. According to this BBC article there are still 145 million unaccounted for, 24 million less than this time last year, but still a considerable number. Some, no doubt, are down the backs of sofas, others may have slipped through cracks in floorboards. There might even be a few in piggy banks and money boxes, though it seems that nowadays people are more likely to mortgage the future than save for it like we did (and more's the pity).

 

As it happens I do have six of the missing coins, but I'm holding onto them - because I've got an old pinball machine that wonít take the new coins. Whilst I could open it up and clock up credits by pushing the appropriate button, it's far more satisfying to put a coin in the slot!

 

 

Stop Press

You can now search the Arolsen Archives records of WW2 persecution, which I wrote about in June, free at Ancestry.

 

 

That's all for now - but I'll be back in August. In the meantime, please remember that LostCousins isnít just a newsletter, itís a website that connects distant cousins around the world who are researching the same ancestors. If you received an email about this newsletter youíre already a member, so you can start searching for your cousins right now!

 

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© 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?

 

Books mentioned below have been chosen by Amazon. To see a different selection change the Search terms and click 'Go'.