Newsletter – 25th March 2022
#HistoryForUkraine THIS WEEKEND
Last chance to save at The Genealogist ENDS THURSDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 14th March) 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):
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#HistoryForUkraine THIS WEEKEND
In September 1938 Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, spoke in this wireless broadcast about a "quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing". The rest, as they say, is history.
On Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th March historians and genealogists are coming together to raise funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Speakers include Charles Spencer, uncle of Prince William and Prince Harry, whose book about the regicides who sent King Charles I to the scaffold was reviewed in this newsletter some years ago.
But there are dozens of other speakers – most of them female, as befits Women's History Month – familiar names include Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists whose recent online talk about female ancestors I attended (as, I know, did some of you), as well as her boss, Wanda Wyporska, who I interviewed in this newsletter last August.
The half-hour talks will be broadcast live on YouTube and will be available for a maximum of 48 hours afterwards, so you are advised to watch them live if possible – see the HistoryforUkraine website for full details, including how to donate. My own £100 donation was one of the first, but I don't expect you to give as much as I did – though if you can, it'll really make a difference.
Note: if you contribute £25 or more to the appeal before the end of March you can claim a free one-year LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 – simply write to me, using the address in the email that told you about this newsletter, providing evidence of your donation.
I was disappointed and surprised to note that the vast majority of attendees at last week's virtual lunchtime chat, hosted by Else Churchill on behalf of the Society of Genealogists, were women. Whilst I can appreciate that it’s more difficult to research female ancestors than male ancestors, that doesn’t explain why male genealogists are so much less interested in doing so than their female counterparts.
I can only hope that by highlighting this discrepancy I'll encourage some of you chaps to mend your ways!
Who Do You Think You Are? magazine recently reported that the contract for the transcription of the 1921 Scotland Census was awarded to Queen's University, Belfast in January this year. The value of the contract is £438,566 – not exactly small change.
The population of England & Wales was almost 8 times greater, which would suggest that the cost of transcribing that part of the census would have been around £3.5 million, though in practice it's likely that it was significantly higher because of the stringent conditions under which it had to be carried out. The England & Wales census was transcribed before the 100-year embargo was lifted, which meant it had to be done in such a way that no personal information could be identified – this meant splitting up each household schedule into chunks so that no one person could see it all, then combining the pieces, while still maintaining confidentiality.
And all that was done in the space of 2½ months, less than half the time allowed for the simpler (and far smaller) Scotland transcription. You can understand, perhaps, why I get so annoyed with people who whinge about transcription errors!
Note: the costs quoted above are for the transcription alone – they don’t allow for the costs of repairing, conserving and scanning the census schedules, or the cost of the infrastructure that enabled the census to be released without any noticeable glitches. Anyone who has been researching as long as I have will recall that when the 1901 England & Wales Census was launched in January 2002 the website crashed almost immediately, and it was nearly 9 months before it re-opened.
There was no 1921 Census in Ireland because the troubles, but in 1926 the first census of Northern Ireland was taken.
Unfortunately in 2013 an investigation by the Public Record Office, the forerunner of the National Archives, found no trace of the census schedules, and concluded that they might have been destroyed during World War 2. An earlier investigation by the Public Records Office in Northern Ireland had found that there was no evidence of the census having been transferred (see this BBC article for more information).
I wonder if there is any chance that this census was destroyed in the same fire that consumed the 1931 England & Wales Census? It's not mentioned in the report that I referred to in the last newsletter, but since there's no evidence that it was stored anywhere else, I don’t think it can be ruled out, do you?
There was a Northern Ireland census taken in 1937, but it was limited in scope and won't be released until 2038 at the earliest – a potentially better source is the 1939 National Register, which is (in theory) available under the Freedom of Information Act. See Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy Toolkit website for more information.
Last chance to save at The Genealogist ENDS THURSDAY
All good things must come to an end, and sadly the exclusive special offer I arranged with The Genealogist expires on Thursday 31st March.
But the good news is that if you take up the offer, which provides a 12 month Diamond subscription for the price of Gold subscription (saving you £41), you'll have the chance to save next year, the year after, and the year after that – in fact, as long as you keep your subscription going. You'll also get a 12 month subscription to Discover Your Ancestors digital magazine, which means that your first year savings total £75.99
To take up the offer follow this link, or to find out more about how The Genealogist can help you follow this link to the presentation that Mark Bayley recently gave to runners-up in this year's competition.
It's not unusual to find an online tree whose owner has added one of our relatives to the wrong family – indeed, things like this are bound to happen because not everyone is as experienced as you and I. We're used to simply ignoring hints, knowing that more often than not they're not relevant, but beginners are often more trusting.
But what really matters is not whether someone has stolen your relative, but what you do about it. You could simply do nothing, but that doesn’t help anyone, or you could send a message to the tree owner.
However, experience shows that many tree owners either don't receive the messages, or don’t feel any need to act upon them – after all, if they don’t know you from Adam (or Eve), why should they trust you rather than their own judgement (or Ancestry's hints)? Others might not have the time to delve into the matter – either they're taking time off from family history, or they're focusing on a different part of their tree. Something that's very important to you might not be nearly so important to them.
So whilst sending a message is better than the 'do nothing' option, it's not a complete answer. It might be a year or more before the tree is updated, and in the meantime goodness knows how many others might be misled by the erroneous entry.
My advice is to post a comment against the individual in the tree, explaining why they shouldn’t be there – that way someone tempted to copy the entry might think twice. If you can identify the correct individual and include their details so much the better – nobody likes having to completely delete someone from their tree, but replacing the wrong person with the right one is much more palatable.
The offer I arranged with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine is still continuing – see this article for details of the generous discounts on offer, and please use this link so that you can support LostCousins.
However if you’re in the UK there are nearly 30 other magazines with enticing introductory offers at the same website – follow this link to find out more (this wider offer isn't exclusive to LostCousins but you should still be supporting my work if you use the link I've provided).
Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain KCB, KCVO, KStJ, KPM is not as well-known as his namesake, but as the inventor of the game of snooker he also has a lot to answer for! Though to be fair the well-known but oft mis-stated and mis-attributed quotation referred not to snooker but to its progenitor, billiards.
My schooldays were not, on the whole, spent playing billiards or snooker, but bridge – though it did allow me to represent my school (and subsequently my university and my county), at something approaching a sport. As it happens Neville Chamberlain and I were educated at the same school, though nearly a century apart – and whilst his middle class parents no doubt paid for his education, my working class background meant that I was only there courtesy of a council scholarship.
there seems to be no contemporary evidence supporting Chamberlain's 1938 claim
to have invented snooker some 60 years earlier, it seems to be generally
accepted. Not so for another inventor – while at school in the 1960s I came
up with the game now known as buzzword bingo, though if you read the Wikipedia entry you won’t find
any mention of my name, which has been airbrushed from history.
Note: the Classics master who taught us Greek had a significant number of quirky mannerisms; I can no longer remember the phrases he'd use, but I can remember some of the actions, which included throwing the chalk at any boy who exasperated him, and twirling the end of his frayed gown. He was one of the more popular masters, but it wasn't the most absorbing subject, so before one lesson I distributed bingo cards populated with different selections of mannerisms. It did at least keep us all focused on what he was saying!
The last time I updated the entry to reflect the game's true origin it lasted just 26 minutes before another user reversed it on the grounds that I could provide no reference to backup my claim. Funnily enough that wasn't something that was uppermost on my mind as a 14 year-old schoolboy! There was a time when the testimony of somebody who was actually present during an historic event counted for something, but in this case I seem to be snookered.
Going back to Neville Chamberlain, he followed his father into the army – fighting in Afghanistan, then serving in India and (during the 2nd Boer War) in South Africa, where he was Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief of British forces around the time when Winston Churchill was captured by the Boers. He ended his career as Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, resigning in 1916 following the Easter Rising.
Earlier this year, on Burns Night, a few dozen fortunate prize-winners were able to hear Chris Paton speak about Scottish Research Resources Before 1800. However, whilst the genealogist, author, and journalist lives in Scotland he was actually born in Ireland, and has ancestors from both countries.
His latest book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors Through Land Records – a guide for family historians, wouldn't have meant much to me a year ago, when I had no knowledge of any Irish ancestry. But, as you'll know from my June 2021 articles, I discovered that the Burns ancestors that were thought to have originated in Scotland were actually Byrne ancestors from Ireland. So, as you can imagine, I read the book very attentively!
It's certainly true, as another reviewer wrote, that not all of the material relates specifically to land records – if you've known about your Irish ancestry longer than I have, you might well be more familiar than I was with the history and geography of Ireland, as well as the surviving records (and where to find them). But I was hearing most of it for the first time, so I was extremely grateful for the comprehensive introduction provided by those first 4 chapters, even though they account for over a third of the book's 174 pages.
As the author reminds us, the fact that so many records have not survived until the present day makes those that remain all the more valuable. Many will be familiar with Griffith's Valuation, which has long been regarded as a census substitute, but there are many other land records which can provide clues to our Irish ancestors' origins. Most people didn’t own land or property, but those who did were the landlords of those who didn't, and those records which record tenants and occupiers are going to be of more interest to most of us.
Having read several of the author's other books and many of his magazine articles, as well as hearing him speak on several occasions I was expecting a comprehensive and well-researched book – and I was not disappointed. It's going to guide me through the next stages of my research in Ireland, and it could do the same for you!
What sorts of things do you give as presents? This week I ordered some plastic file tabs from Amazon, and I was offered the opportunity to have them gift-wrapped at a special price (for the gift-wrapping, not the file tabs). I can't think of anybody who would want me to give them file tabs as a present!
It's not very often that I have to buy stationery: I'm very good at recycling office supplies. When I ran my software business (from the late 70s through to the late 90s) much of the stationery and all of the furniture, including desks and filing cabinets was second-hand (at least). Many of the suspension files I use were in the second-hand filing cabinets when I bought them, and they're all foolscap width, not A4, which suits me down to the ground.
My desk was bought over 20 years ago from the company my wife used to work for (they bought new ones when they moved offices); it might be old, but at least it's solid wood with dovetailed joints – no laminates, no hardboard, no screws or nails. I sit on a dining chair from the 1980s, which in theory shouldn't be good for my back, but in practice I have no problems.
But all these things which are functional and useful to me would have little or no value if I had to downsize and dispose of them. In fact I'd probably have to pay someone to take them away, because these days people want things that are new, even when they're not as good, and even when they can’t afford them. Many of the people who have been hit by price inflation had no savings to cushion the blow – indeed, I suspect some of them were already over-borrowed when the crunch came.
Saving money regularly when we were younger benefited us in three ways: first, it got us in the habit of saving up for things we wanted rather than needed, rather than borrowing so that we could have instant gratification; second, it gave us reserves of capital that we could draw upon in lean times; third, it meant that we had a cushion against unexpected drops in income – we could pause saving until things improved.
When I was young I was always hungry; when I was a toddler I would hide under an armchair and eat dog biscuits. They came in different shapes and colours (buff, green, pink and black are the ones I remember); I think they were Spillers' Shapes. I was reminded of this when I saw this story about a government minister who mistakenly ate biscuits intended for the Queen's corgis.
According to that newspaper article the Queen was given her first Corgi on her 18th birthday, in 1944 – coincidentally it's the 18th birthday of LostCousins in a few weeks' time but, please, no Corgis (our cat wouldn’t appreciate them).
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