Newsletter - 28th June 2019
Save on The Somme Legacy ENDS SOON
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 21st June) 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!
1st July is a special date for Canadians - it marks the day in 1867 when the Constitution Act came into force, uniting three British colonies - the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick - into a single dominion called Canada. Originally known as Dominion Day, it was renamed Canada Day in 1982.
This year it's a double celebration, because I'm making it easier than ever before to connect with your cousins through the 1881 Canada census.
First of all, itís going to be completely free to connect with cousins through the Canadian census from now until Monday 8th July - and since the 1881 census is always free at FamilySearch this means that it wonít cost a penny or a cent (whichever side of the Atlantic you're on).
Note: initiating contact with someone new normally requires a LostCousins subscription, although there are several periods each year when the site is completely free - so nobody is ever forced to pay.
Secondly, I've greatly simplified the process for entering relatives from the 1881 Canada census. FamilySearch have done away with two of the census references weíve been using for more than a decade, and whilst you can get them from Ancestry - if youíve got the right subscription - I've determined, after much experimentation and many hours of careful testing, that we can manage without them altogether.
Note: if you've entered relatives from the Canadian census in the past, and are wondering what has happened to the sub-district and division information (which is now no longer required), you wonít see it on the screen, but it has been archived so that it can be retrieved should this become necessary at some point in the future.
As of now, the only information you'll need (apart from your relative's name and age) is the district number, the page number, and the family number - all of which are shown and clearly identified in the free FamilySearch transcription, as you can see in the example below:
Here's what it looks like when you fill out the Add Ancestor form at LostCousins:
It really couldnít be much more straightforward. By the way, after you've entered the first person itís even easier to add other members of the same household - because most of the information is filled in for you, including the census references and family name (which you can, of course, alter if somebody in the household has a different surname).
Tip: always follow the advice on the Add Ancestor form - and note that it changes when you select a different census.
Before I started researching my family tree I didnít know that I had any cousins in Canada - dead or alive - now I'm in touch with at least a dozen living cousins, most of whom are also researching their tree, and I've got two families listed from the 1881 Canada census.
Finally, please note that if your relatives lived in Newfoundland - which didn't become part of Canada until 1949 - I'm including the 1921 Newfoundland census in the offer. This census is also free at FamilySearch, and there's only one 4-character reference you need to note down - see this article for an illustrated example.
Even if you're Canadian you might not have any relatives who were living in Canada in 1881 - but you probably know quite a few family historians who would have had relatives on that census.
How about inviting them to take part in the LostCousins project to connect cousins who are researching the same ancestors? They donít need to have any ancestors from the British Isles - though if they do, there will be additional opportunities for them to connect with 'lost cousins'.
Just as the last issue was published I received an email from Essex Record Office containing some of the best news I could have possibly imagined - more than a decade after the Essex parish registers went online, Ancestry has transcribed and indexed them, making it a hundred times quicker to find elusive entries.
It's not all good news, however - you'll still need a subscription to Essex Ancestors Online in order to view the register pages (or else pay £2.99 per image). And whilst the Ancestry transcription links to the Essex Ancestors site, you wonít be taken to the register page - even if you have a subscription - so on the face of it you've got to plough through the register looking for the appropriate page.
Fortunately I've come up with a partial solution, one that will save you a lot of time - and time is money, especially if you've splashed out £20 on a 24-hour subscription to Essex Ancestors (a 12 month subscription costs £95 and there are other options in between). In the next article I'm going to tell you what to do......
In this article I'm going to take you through a worked example from my own tree in order to demonstrate a nifty technique that I came up with when Essex Record Office confirmed my worst fears, that even as a subscriber to both sites I couldn't click through from the Ancestry transcription to the image of the register entry at Essex Archives Online.
I'll use the marriage of my great-great-great grandparents - here's the transcription at Ancestry:
Note that there's a link in the top left which reads View Image at Essex Archives Online - this got me all excited the first time I saw it, but when you click it, all you'll see is a page with a virtually illegible miniature version of the register page:
I've indicated the key pieces of information - there's an image number in the URL at the top (833137), and a reference halfway down. Write them both down.
Now log-in to Essex Archives Online if you haven't already done so, and go to the Parish Registers page - as a subscriber you'll be familiar with the dropdown menu system, which might be a bit clunky, but it works. The page for All Saints and St Peter, Maldon has long list of registers, and the relevant entry is shown in this snippet:
Note that the reference matches the one we noted down earlier. When you click the View link you'll be taken to minimised version of the first page of the register:
Once again I've included the URL - write down the ID number shown there (45535 in this case).
Now for the exciting bit - copy the URL below and modify it by entering the two numbers you've written down:
For example, in this case you want to end up with:
Finally, paste the modified URL into the command line of your browser, and bingo! You'll jump straight to the image of the register entry youíre after.
In this case there are only 21 pages in the register, and they're easy to read, so it wouldn't have taken me very long to get to the right page - but some registers have 200 pages or more, and the entries aren't always in a logical order.
Of course, if you're looking at lots of entries in the same parish you won't need to keep looking up the document numbers for the registers - which is why I also suggested noting down the archive reference (in this case 201/1/10).
If you're already a subscriber to Essex Archives Online you'll find this tip save you lots of time - and if youíre not, perhaps it will provide you with the incentive you need to become a subscriber?
I've been looking for the marriage of my great-great-great grandfather Ebenezer Bright for 16 years, and whilst several Ancestry trees show him marrying Sarah Precious in Maldon, Essex in 1812 I wasn't prepared to add this marriage to my tree without convincing evidence. Bright is a common surname, and whilst Ebenezer might seem like an unusual forename, the area of Essex where my Bright ancestors lived was a hotbed of non-conformity - Ebenezer was baptised at the Coggeshall Independent Meeting house, as were his children, including Samuel, Isaac, and Benjamin (all names from the Bible).
Ebenezer gives his place of birth in the censuses as Little Tey, whilst his children - though baptised at Coggeshall - are shown as born at Great Tey, where the family are living in the censuses from 1841 to 1861. Their last child was born in 1835, so there was no chance of discovering Sarah's maiden name in the new GRO birth indexes.
The Ebenezer Bright who married in Maldon was recorded as being from Mundon, a couple of miles further south - and though Mundon is less than 20 miles from Great Tey, a quick radius check on the FamilySearch maps page showed that there were as many as 180 parishes that were nearer than Mundon. It seemed unlikely that my ancestor would have married so far away when there were so many other places to choose from - and, apparently, 4 years before the baptism of his first child.
Sarah is shown on the census as born in Althorne, just 5 miles from Mundon, and 9 miles from Maldon - but I †long ago searched the Althorne registers looking for her baptism without success. Indeed I've spent hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours going through unindexed Essex registers, either in the record office or online - but because there are over 400 parishes in Essex it was a never-ending task.
I certainly didn't get as far afield as Great Clacton, far from where any of my ancestors were known to have lived - but it was there, in November 1813 and April 1815 that two sons were baptised to Ebenezer Bright, a labourer, and his wife Sarah. Could this possibly be the link between Maldon in 1812 and Great Tey in 1816? At first I was doubtful - even today it would take an hour to drive between Maldon and Clacton, and nearly as long to get from Clacton to Great Tey.
When I looked at the names I was even more sceptical - the eldest son was called William, and whilst my great-great grandfather was also called William Bright, he wasn't born until 1833. Once again Ancestry's transcriptions came to my rescue - in the registers for St Barnabas, Great Tey, I found a May 1831 burial entry for a William Bright aged 17 - precisely the right age to fit with the Clacton baptism. Even more convincing was the fact that 9 days earlier another Bright child had been buried, one who was undoubtedly the daughter of my ancestor.
It seemed very likely that there had been an infection going round the Bright family, one that had not only taken the life of infant Emma, but also her big brother William - so when my great-great grandfather was born less than two years later he had been christened William in honour of his deceased elder brother.
In less than an hour I'd achieved more than in hundreds of hours over the previous 16 years - my 'brick wall' had come tumbling down! And for once it wasn't the result of DNA......
This week Findmypast added more than 400,000 records from seven Poor Law Unions in Donegal to their growing collection of Irish Poor Law records - you can search them here.
Findmypast have an amazing collection of Irish records, many of them exclusive - for an example of their criminal records see last year's newsletter article Who Framed Roger Rabbit? about an Irish lad who really was called Roger Rabbit!
I've been in touch with the General Register Office again about the large blocks of missing or duplicated entries in their online birth and death indexes, but am still waiting for confirmation that work is in hand to rectify the faults. I will report back when I have more information.
In the meantime, please bear in mind that the original indexes - the ones that you'll find at sites like FreeBMD, Ancestry, Findmypast, and The Genealogist - were also compiled by the GRO. The difference is that they were compiled soon after the end of each quarter, and using whatever protocol was on force at the time - thus the birth indexes don't show the mother's maiden name before 1911, and the death indexes donít give the age at birth† before 1866.
It's quite unusual to find an error in the contemporary GRO indexes, however Catherine sent me an example where the page number is recorded as 143 in the original indexes, but as 243 in the new online index. A few minutes spent analysing the data at FreeBMD was sufficient to prove that an indexing error had been made back in 1839 - I found that all 10 of the entries for page 243 had been wrongly indexed as page 143.
When I use FreeBMD itís not because itís free - I have subscriptions to most of the other sites - itís because FreeBMD have analysed the data and flag up likely errors. For example, the way that the GRO registers were compiled from loose pages submitted by local registrars means that entries from a particular registration district will be found on consecutive pages in the relevant volume for that quarter. An index entry with the wrong page number will usually stick out like a sore thumb.
Tip: the GRO uses different register volumes for each quarter, so the page numbering starts again from 1 at the start of the next quarter. Whilst registration districts tend to be filed in the same order, so that the numbers roughly correspond from one quarter to the next, they could be higher or lower, depending on the number of events registered in each quarter.
A High Court judge has ordered an unnamed man to register the birth of his son - you can read all about this strange case in this Guardian article.
Not long ago Ancestry and 23andMe were slugging it out in court, in a dispute over patents, trademarks, and goodness knows what else!
But they've buried the hatchet in the interests of the genetic genealogy industry, coming together to form the Coalition for Genetic Data Protection, which will allow the industry to "let Congress know what the best practices are for protecting customersí data and also to show their customers that theyíre deserving of their trust."
You can read more about this development here.
Members in Australia (and, I suspect, New Zealand) can save 25% on DNA tests at Ancestry.com.au - but only until Sunday 30th June. Please use this link so that you can support LostCousins (if you've previously bought a DNA test you might need to log-out from your Ancestry account before clicking the link).
And you can celebrate Canada Day by connecting with your ancestors - Ancestry.ca are offering a $40 saving until Monday 1st July - again, please use this link.
The MyHeritage offers in my last newsletter are continuing - you'll find the details and links here.
Tip: watch out for websites offering fake DNA kits - this news report tells how a New York woman was scammed.
As an avid reader of science fiction as a boy in the late 1950s, everything seemed to be coming true when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969 - surely we would establish a colony on the moon and use it as a base to explore other planets in the solar system, starting with Mars?
In the event none of this happened, and it has only been in recent years that the prospect of returning to the moon has become more likely. A manned mission to Mars still seems like a fading dream, one that might not be realised in my lifetime.
However, studies suggest that some of the problems of a manned mission could be eliminated by sending an all-female crew to Mars. In 2013 a simulated Mars mission in a geodesic dome on a Hawaiian volcano found that female 'crew' members used considerably less energy, even though they were carrying out similar exercises to the men - you can read more in this article on the NASA website (it includes a link to a longer article in Slate magazine).
But if you're going to set up a colony, donít you need both men and women? Not according to this Guardian article, which reports on a study which has shown that frozen sperm can survive perfectly well in zero-gravity conditions. I wonder what the family historians of the future will make of Martian birth certificates?
I'm not the only one who grew up on a diet of science fiction - John Wade, author of The Golden Age of Science Fiction: A Journey into Space with 1950s Radio, TV, Films, Comics and Books is another, and I'm willing to bet that there are many more amongst the LostCousins members.
By the late 1950s I'd read all the Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome books in the Children's Library, and upgrading to the Adult Library I discovered writers like Jules Verne, H G Wells, Isaac Asimov and John Wyndham. Sadly I was too young to be allowed to watch the Quatermass serials, but I did see The Invisible Man, inspired by the H G Wells novel. And, of course, there was Dan Dare, the hero of the Eagle comic - who was constantly battling The Mekon - and also Superman, whose exploits I read about in second-hand American comics.
The 1960s, which for teenage boys was defined by A for Andromeda, Doctor Who, and Star Trek (which I thought rather unrealistic, though I must confess to enjoying Thunderbirds), falls beyond the scope of this book, but many of the books which I read, and the films which I watched in the 60s and 70s, had their origins in the 1950s
Reading this book reminded me how science fiction inspired me to dream, as it did millions of others - and provided us with a vision of the future, albeit one that has taken rather longer to come to fruition (where are the flying cars?). It is lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced - and whilst not as large as a typical 'coffee table' book I suspect that quite a few purchasers will leave it out for their visitors! For many it will be a book to dip into and savour, rather than read from beginning to end - there's a comprehensive index at the back to guide you to you favourite memories.
I read the hardback edition, which costs a hefty £25, but when I checked just now you could buy it from Wordery for less than £17 (including shipping) through Amazon.co.uk, (or for even less if you go to their own site - though strangely they describe it there as a paperback, even when you search by ISBN). There is a paperback edition due out at the end of September in the UK (later in North America), but if you can pick up the hardback at a good price itís well worth the extra, since this book is likely to be extremely well-thumbed, especially if you leave it on the coffee table.
Typical - you wait ages for a good, practical guide to DNA to arrive, then two come along at once! Just two †months ago I reviewed Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies, then this week Tracing Your Ancestors Using DNA arrived on my desk for review.
This new book, edited by Graham S Holton, and with contributions from John Cleary, Michelle Leonard, Iain McDonald, and Alasdair F MacDonald is probably the one I would have written myself if I'd had the time and the patience, and as I read it I repeatedly found myself nodding in agreement with the advice on offer. For example, ethnicity estimates are described in the introduction as "promoted, very successfully, probably the most unreliable feature of DNA testing for genealogy, in its current state of development".
I did spot one error - in the first main chapter, a collaboration between three of the authors entitled 'Why Use DNA Testing for Genealogy' there's a paragraph headed 'Leaving a Legacy', which begins:
"Another reason to DNA test is to leave a legacy for your descendants. The way atDNA inheritance works means that older generations have more of our ancestors' DNA than we do: parents have double, grandparents have triple and so on."
It should, of course, say that our grandparents have four times as much of our ancestors' DNA than we do (after all, there are four of them). But it doesn't undermine the main premise, which is that testing the earliest generations will lead to more useful matches, and otherwise I didn't notice any other mistakes.
Having highlighted the important paragraph quoted above, I'm going to reinforce some advice of my own - which is that testing our DNA is even more important if we donít have children! Unless we have descendants all of our DNA dies when we do - itís only by taking the test ourselves that we can preserve that legacy for future generations of our extended family.
When I got to the end of the first chapter it was like re-reading the last issue of this newsletter - the authors emphasise the symbiotic relationship between genetic genealogy and traditional research, which I've written about many times, and featured a week ago in this article.
It's not all about autosomal DNA - the book also looks at Y-DNA, mtDNA, and even X-DNA (which tends to get forgotten). But unless you're single-mindedly focused on tracing your paternal line, or have a distant 'brick wall' that could be demolished using Y-DNA, it's atDNA that is going to deliver the goods, and the depth of coverage in the book reflects that.
As you would expect, the book writes about the various tools that are available to manipulate our DNA results in an effort to glean more information - but I'd argue that now most of us have tens of thousands of DNA matches, rather than the hundreds that we had in the early days, itís rarely necessary to complicate matters. If you've tested 10 or 20 close family members then things might be different, but most people who have made that sort of investment will have been following the genetic genealogy blogs, and will have already made up their mind what tools they really need.
[Note: the book was written before Ancestry introduced ThruLines which, for the average user, is likely to take them further toward their goals than all the third party tools - and with very little effort on their part.] †
Chapter 7 is devoted to choosing between test providers, but at under 6 pages it's the shortest chapter in the book - even though this is one of the biggest decisions for a first-time tester. Quite rightly it doesnít point you in the direction of this or that company, instead posing some of the key considerations that you should take into account.
Where it could have been more helpful, however, is in explaining how well-integrated Ancestry DNA is with Ancestry trees - not just public trees but also private searchable trees (as almost all private trees are). Because I manage about a dozen tests at Ancestry, half a dozen at FTDNA, and several at MyHeritage - plus my own results at 23andMe - I know from experience how important this is.
The book ends with a look into the future of genetic genealogy - and introduces the concept of DNA-only ancestors, people we canít identify in the records, and are only known to us through the traces of DNA that we and others have inherited. It'll be interesting to see where that leads.....
At just £14.99 for the paperback edition, a fraction of the cost of even one DNA test, this book is likely to prove a very worthwhile investment - wherever you are on the spectrum between the enthusiasts who trying to persuade as many as possible of their living relatives to test, and the sceptics who are still trying to make up their mind whether itís all hocus-pocus. There were discounted copies available when I checked just now, so youíre unlikely to have to pay full price, even allowing for the cost of shipping, but there is also a Kindle version (which costs under £6 in the UK).
Note: the book isnít due out in North America until the fall, but you might be able to get it from The Book Depository or Wordery (though Wordery didnít have it in stock when I looked).
Save on The Somme Legacy ENDS SOON
It's almost exactly 103 years since the Battle of The Somme began on 1st July 1916, and from Sunday 30th June until Friday 5th July you can buy the Kindle version of MJ Lee's genealogical mystery The Somme Legacy for just 99p at Amazon.co.uk or 99c at Amazon.com (I'm afraid the offer isn't available in other territories).
The latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine arrived on my doorstep today, with news of the release of more than 13 million records of victims of Nazi persecution.
The Arolsen Archives was originally founded by the British Red Cross in 1944 under the name Central Tracing Bureau, and renamed to the International Tracing Service in 1948 - the new name reflects their location in Bad Arolsen, in Germany (last week I was just 70 miles away in another German spa town, escaping the British weather and visiting my brother-in-law).
To search the records follow this link.
With the approaching 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon I couldn't resist Apollo 11: The Moon Landing in Real Time - will it recreate the excitement that kept me up until 5am (even though I had to go to work a few hours later)? I'll let you know next time, but if you can't wait, please use the relevant link below:
But the book that's really bringing back memories is The Secondary Banking Crisis 1973-75, because I was working in 'the City' at the time, first as an investment analyst, then in corporate finance - and perhaps if we had remembered the lessons of 1973-75 we wouldnít have suffered from similar mistakes in 2007-8? †
This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
© Copyright 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'.
Books mentioned below have been chosen by Amazon. To see a different selection change the Search terms and click 'Go'.