Newsletter - 26th November 2018
Lowest ever DNA prices? ENDS MONDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month (this month has been exceptional with 5 issues). To access the previous newsletter (dated 21st November 2018) 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!
Lowest ever DNA prices? ENDS MONDAY
The cost of DNA tests has fallen considerably since I first tested back in 2012, but it's invariably the Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend that sees the biggest reductions - and as most offers end at midnight on Cyber Monday, now is the time to get your order in. Please use the relevant link below so that LostCousins can benefit from your purchase - you wonít pay a penny more, and you'll help to keep this newsletter independent.
Ancestry.co.uk (UK only) - SALE PRICE £49 plus shipping (ends 11.59pm London time on Monday 26th November)
Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand only) - SALE PRICE A$88 plus shipping (ends 11.59pm AEDT on Monday 26th November)
Ancestry.ca (Canada only) - SALE PRICE C$69 plus shipping (ends 11.59pm EST on Monday 26th November)
Ancestry.com (US only) - SALE PRICE US$49 plus shipping (ends 11.59pm EST on Monday 26th November)
Family Tree DNA (Worldwide) - FAMILY FINDER SALE PRICE US$39 (ends Monday 26th November)
Family Tree DNA (Worldwide) - Y-DNA SALE PRICE US$99 (ends Monday 26th November)
Note: see this article in the last newsletter for an explanation of when and why Y-DNA tests are worth considering.
In spite of what some people might think, DNA testing is not a substitute for traditional methods. The wonderful thing about DNA is that it creates the biological equivalent of a paper trail, one that cannot be lost or destroyed - so DNA beautifully complements the records-based research that I've been carrying out for more than 16 years, and many of you have been doing for even longer.
But whereas we can search for our ancestors' names in paper records, there are no names stored in our autosomal DNA. It's full of clues, but to make any sense of those clues we need to identify others who have segments of DNA that match our own. And that's why it's both logical and sensible to choose the company which has sold more tests than all the others added together - Ancestry.
If you haven't tested yet you might not appreciate why this matters, so here's a real life example. I have 2152 matches with genetic cousins at Family Tree DNA, 3394 matches at MyHeritage, and just 993 at 23andMe - but I have over 16100 at Ancestry! And if anything these figures understate Ancestry's dominance, because some of those matches at other providers are the result of users transferring their Ancestry DNA results (and some will, like me, have tested at multiple sites).
Unlike most other test providers Ancestry don't accept transfers, which means that if you want to compare your DNA against that of the 10 million or so users who have tested with them, you can only do so by buying an Ancestry test. And having tested with Ancestry you have the option of uploading your results to several other sites to find extra matches - so you've got the best of both worlds.
Make the mistake of testing with another provider and you'll almost certainly end up doing what I did - testing all over again. Get it right now, by choosing Ancestry, and you'll not only save money but a lot of time!
Note: you donít need an Ancestry subscription to view your DNA matches or to contact them, or to create an Ancestry tree of your own - and whilst you wonít be able to view your cousins' trees without their permission, someone who has a public tree is unlikely to refuse. So donít buy the wrong DNA test simply because you donít have an Ancestry subscription!
What is Findmypast DNA?
Some of you will have noticed that Findmypast are now selling a DNA test under their own brand - however it's not a new product, but the LivingDNA test in another guise. The good news is that the rebranding of the test has resulted in a price cut, from its recent level of £99 (in the UK) down to £79, and it is further reduced to £59 for the Black Friday weekend (ie until midnight on Monday 26th November). There are similarly attractive reductions in other territories.
What's special about the Findmypast/LivingDNA test, and should you consider buying it? The big selling point is that it offers those of us with British ancestry much more detailed Ethnicity Estimates.
For example, whereas Ancestry tell me that I'm 87% from Great Britain, with an emphasis on Southern England and the South-East in particular, 10% from Ireland/Wales/Scotland, and 3% from Norway, Living DNA tell me that I'm 23.3% from East Anglia, 17.5% from South East England, 9.7% from the South Wales Border, 8.9% from North Yorkshire, 8.3% from Devon etc etc (you can see my full results here).
But neither test picked up on the fact that I'm 6% German, and if I've got ancestors from Wales, Scotland, Ireland - or, for that matter, Yorkshire - they've yet to show up in my research. My most recent 'brick wall' is a great-great grandmother - but she's one of 16 great-great grandparents, so unlikely to account for any of those anomalies.
So, I'm yet to be convinced that Ethnicity Estimates can be useful for someone like me of mostly British heritage who already knows a fair bit about their origins. However there are many people out there who know far less about their origins than I do about mine, and for some of them the Findmypast/LivingDNA test could provide them with what they're looking for. I also know that some people reading this are much more optimistic about the value of Ethnicity Estimates than I am, and if so this weekend's reduced pricing offers a great opportunity.
There's little opportunity to find genetic cousins by testing with Findmypast/LivingDNA because the size of their database is very small compared to other providers - and itís those matches with cousins that are most likely to help you knock down the 'brick walls' in your tree. However if you've already tested with Ancestry, but want a more detailed breakdown of your British ethnicity, the Findmypast/LivingDNA test is currently the best option. If you're hoping to find out more about your Irish ancestry it's less likely to help, I'm afraid. You can see a list of the 80 regions that LivingDNA use here.
You can support LostCousins by using the links below (all the prices shown are in local currency; times are local time unless otherwise stated):
Findmypast.co.uk - £59 ENDS MIDNIGHT MONDAY
Findmypast.ie - Ä69 ENDS MIDNIGHT MONDAY
Findmypast.com.au - $99 Australia $99 New Zealand ENDS MIDNIGHT AEDT MONDAY
Findmypast.com - $59 US $79 Canada ENDS MIDNIGHT PST MONDAY
I also understand that if youíre not currently a Findmypast subscriber you'll receive a free 14-day subscription when you activate your test.
When we're matched with a genetic cousin, someone who appears to have inherited an identical segment of DNA, we're faced with an unusual challenge - we know that we're related, but we usually wonít know which of our ancestors we inherited that segment from, and the chances are that the person we're matched with won't know either. It's rather like trying to do a complex jigsaw without first seeing the picture on the box.
Most of the matches we make with DNA cousins will be many generations back, since we have many more distant cousins than we do close cousins. The final column of the table below indicates roughly how many cousins you might expect to find if you and they all took the Ancestry DNA test:
Based on Table 2 from: Henn BM, Hon L, Macpherson JM, Eriksson N, Saxonov S, Pe'er I, et al. (2012) Cryptic Distant Relatives Are Common in Both Isolated and Cosmopolitan Genetic Samples. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34267. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034267
Revised using Ancestry DNA estimates for the chances of detecting cousins and the expected number of 1st to 6th cousins for those of British ancestry; the numbers for 7th to 10th cousins are my own guesstimates
Of course, in practice only a small fraction of your cousins will have tested - even Ancestry, by far the biggest provider of autosomal tests, had only sold about 10 million tests by early 2018 - but you can nevertheless reckon that the cousins you're matched with will be distributed roughly in proportion to the figures shown above. In other words, over 99% of your matches will be with relatives who are at best 5th cousins, and could well be 8th cousins or even more distant - so the further back you're managed to research your tree, the easier it will be to work out how you're connected to your genetic cousins.
How many matches will you get?
If you test with Ancestry it's very unlikely you'll get fewer than 15,000 matches, and it's possible you'll have more than 30,000. But you might not realise you've got that many matches, because Ancestry don't tell you what the total is, instead they tell you about the number who are 4th cousin or closer, which - as you'll know from the table above - is only a small fraction of the total. For example, I've currently got just 135 close matches, but over 16,000 matches in total.
Tip: to find out how many Ancestry matches you have click 'View All DNA Matches' then adjust the page number until you've figured out how many pages of results there are (I'd suggest starting at 400). There are 50 results per page, so just multiply the number of pages by 50.
Before you get your results
Making sense of all those matches wonít be easy - in fact you'll probably never figure out how most of your genetic cousins are connected to you - but by preparing the ground you can make things a LOT easier.
When your DNA results are finally available I'd recommend you refer to this Masterclass - following the strategies outlined there will save you a lot of time and maximise your chances of success.
Testing your own DNA is a great start - but itís only the beginning. It's unlikely you'll be able to figure out how you connect to more than a fraction of 1% of your DNA cousins if all you've got to go on is a single test. How can you possibly make use of the remaining 99%?
The key problem is not knowing which of your ancestral lines connects you to each of your genetic cousins. However, if one of your cousins has tested you'll know that the matches you share with them are on one of the lines that you share.
For example, if a maternal 1st cousin has tested you'll be able to identify some of your matches as being on your mother's side of your tree, and the same goes for your father's side when one of your paternal 1st cousins test. Of course, whilst all of your matches must be on one side or the other, you won't share all of them with one of your 1st cousins (though you will probably share all of the closest matches).
But knowing which side of your tree a match is on is only a start - although we only have 2 parents we have 64 great-great-great-great grandparents (which is about as far as autosomal DNA tests can reliably reach), so halving the number of possible lines from 64 to 32 doesnít get us very far. What you really need is 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th cousins to test - whilst the number of shared matches will reduce, the precision with which you can identify the shared ancestry will increase.
If you share a match with a 4th cousin the genetic cousin you've both been matched with must be descended from the 3G grandparents you share with your known cousin, or from one of their ancestors. And whilst you're clearly not going to pay for all your 4th cousins to test, the reality is that some of them will already have tested - which is why finding documented cousins (such as the 'lost cousins' you find through the LostCousins website) is so important.
When you want to target a particular 'brick wall', as you almost certainly will, it might be necessary to persuade someone who isn't researching their family tree to test - in which case you'll probably have to pick up the tab. Who should you pick? The ideal person would be someone who shares the 'brick wall' ancestor and no other ancestors - though in practice relatives like that are few and far between, because ancestors usually come in pairs. It's usually only when a half-cousin tests that you can identify which matches come from a single line.
If your 'brick wall' is a great-grandparent then you ideally need a 2nd cousin to test; for a great-great grandparent it would be a 3rd cousin, and so on. Sometimes you may have to compromise, of course - there may not be anyone in the right part of your tree who is both available to test and willing to do so.
Tip: some companies require you to give the name of the person who will be testing when you order a test kit - but Ancestry don't, which is very handy when there's a sale on and you don't have much time. Several LostCousins members have told me that last year they ordered 2 or 3 more kits than they needed in the Black Friday sale, because they knew that they'd want to invite more cousins to test as their research progressed.
Thanks to everyone who has written in since my recent discovery of thousands of missing and duplicated entries in the GRO's own online indexes. I'm glad to say that having analysed all of the reports I haven't identified any further missing blocks larger than a single page - quite a relief, because when something like this turns up you can never be sure whether it's the "tip of the iceberg".
If you are thinking of writing to me about errors you've found please check first whether the other entries on the same page are missing - if they're not then don't contact me as there must be hundreds of thousands of transcription errors, and not only do I not have time to investigate each one, there is nothing I personally can do about them.
Note: this article explains how to check for missing entries using the FreeBMD site.
Please bear in mind that there are also errors and omissions in the original GRO indexes - the entries in the handwritten indexes have been copied at least twice, and those in the printed indexes at least three times (and that's even before they're transcribed). So unless you have a copy of the register entry you cannot assume that the new index is necessarily wrong.
Something else to consider when reporting an apparent indexing error is that the handwriting in the register may be hard to decipher - in other words there may be more than one plausible interpretation. In this case simply referring the GRO to the contemporary indexes probably isn't going to change their mind - you may need to offer further evidence (such as another entry relating to the same family) if you want your version to be accepted.
UPDATE: another block of missing births has just been found - more details in the next issue.
There have been so many insightful real-life adoption stories sent in by members, and yet no two of them are the same - every adoption is different. The story in this issue comes from Australia, although the birth father is believed to have arrived from the UK around 1950. All of the names have been changed:
"I have a brother that was adopted nearly 60 years ago. I located him about 40 years ago, but I was disappointed to discover at that time, that he did not know that he was adopted, so I never said anything. I thought that it was up to his adopted parents to tell him, not me.
"At the time of Richardís adoption, the Ďofficialsí had told them not to tell him that he was adopted, so they didnít. If the adopting parents donít have that conversation from the first time that the child asks, ĎWhere did I come from?í, then how are they ever going to broach the subject years or decades later? I kept in touch with his adopted parents Gladys and James, and no doubt the arrival of my annual Christmas card must have caused them many a sleepless night. About 11 years later, while Richard was overseas visiting what he thought were his relatives, an old blind aunty said something like 'Which one are you, are you the adopted one?' Well, that put the cat among the pigeons - as you can imagine, Richard was straight on the phone to his adoptive parents. His father James said ĎHave you been talking to that girl?í, referring to me. That must have sounded like a strange response to his questions about whether he was adopted or not. They denied it, and would not tell him anything.
"Unfortunately for them, Richard decided to cut short his overseas trip and fly home in order to get some answers. After he had finally extracted the information from his adoptive parents, he spoke to the Salvation Army and was able to contact me via the electoral rolls. Sometime later he caught the bus up to visit me one weekend (I lived about 500 km away). On another occasion when I was in the city I met him at a coffee shop and we looked through some old photos that Iíd brought to show him. He was able to obtain enough information from me about our parents, that he did not meet my mother for quite some time.
"Eventually Richard arranged to meet our Mum at the railway station near a large shopping centre; Mum lived in the same city as Richard at that time. Both had arrived early, and to fill in time had walked over to the nearby shopping centre to wander around. Mum recalls sitting on a seat and seeing a young fellow walk past, carrying something in a bag, and she wondered if that might be Richard carrying some photos. It was not his appearance that had caught her eye, but something about the manner in which he walked that reminded her of my father, Peter. When they met up later at the railway station, it had indeed been Richard that she had been watching walking past. I am always fascinated by things that can be inherited such as mannerisms. Unless you are dealing with a situation like adoption, then you would automatically assume that it was a learned behaviour, rather than something that was purely genetic.
"My mother and Richard have only met on a handful of occasions, but they keep in touch and ring each other perhaps once a month. My mother now lives nearer to me and about 500 km from where Richard lives. Richard will ring mum on birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Motherís Day that sort of thing. These days Richard does not travel much as he has too many pets to look after.
"Richardís adoptive parents died about a decade ago, they were much older than our parents by perhaps 10 years or more. When I heard that Gladys was dying, I rang and she commented that it would be nice to see me again. So I organised my mother to fly up to my place to look after my pets, and I drove the 1,000km to see Gladys and James. I spent about three days staying with them, just sitting around chatting about Richard and our parents. We looked at some old photo albums containing photos of Richard when he was a child. We also went for a drive and did a little bit of sight-seeing. I also heard more about Gladys' and Jamesí early married life. As they were childless they had the opportunity to pursue hobbies that they may not have had the opportunity to do had they had children when they were younger.
"It is a familiar story, they had been married for over a decade with no sign of any children when they had the opportunity to adopt Richard. Then low and behold, Gladys finally managed to fall pregnant Ė and did so twice, after all those years of trying! The arrival of their own children was also another reason for not wanting to tell Richard that he was adopted, as they never wanted him to feel that he was treated any differently to the others. Gladys and James always seemed to like me, and were grateful that I never told my brother that he was adopted. I think they saw me as the daughter they never had. Gladys died about 18 months after my visit, and James followed within a couple of years.
"Even though Richard and I both have the same parents, my brother was adopted, whereas I was not. It turned out that I was offered for adoption to Gladys and James, but they were concerned that every time my mother got pregnant that they might want to pass the child on to them, so declined. I have heard the story from my mother, my father, and Gladys and James and it seems clear that it was my father who instigated the adoption. It was done privately, but legally. James and my parents were all living in and around a small country town about 400 km from the nearest state capital, and my father was working on a major infrastructure project at that time. Gladys was living back in the city, while her husband was working away from home. My mother was about 1,400 km from her family interstate and had no money or means to just take the baby and jump on a train and head home. There was also no single motherís benefit back in the 1950ís either.
"Our parents did not stay together for long, only a few years - our father, Peter, was of the love 'em, and leave 'em variety. When he ran off with my mother he left Elsie, the woman he was living with along with a baby girl only several months old; for her part my mother left her husband and three young children when she ran off with my father (there could have been a bit of post-natal depression in there). What a mess! My mother must have been about 21 or 22 at that time. I am so pleased that I didn't get the genes for irresponsibility!
"As for our father Peter, he was able to track me down through an old government employer a few weeks before he died. It was just a fluke really that he had been able to locate me via my old next-of-kin address, as my mother and step-father had only moved house about 4 weeks earlier and so the mail was still being re-directed to their new address. When Mum saw the government envelope from my old employer and its interstate address, she knew that it had to be something to do with my father, so she opened the envelope and then rang me. At that time I was living in another state about 1,000 km from Mumís place and it would have taken a few days for the mail to have been re-sent on to me - I didnít know how much time my father had left. I figured that by the time I had my car serviced and checked and drove about 3,500 km by road from my place to his, it could easily have taken me a week to get there and he may have already died while I was travelling - so I flew instead. With my mother's encouragement, my brother arrived about a week later. At that time there were heavy rains and some roads were cut due to flooding - Richard spent several days travelling by bus - the route he travelled covered over 4,400 km.
"It was the only time that my brother ever met his father. I had met him a handful of times over the previous 30 years, but I had not spoken to him for over 14 years before he died. He was on his best behaviour despite the fact that death was stalking him. He'd learnt previously that I was not my mother, and would not take any rot from him. Heíd told his neighbour before I arrived that Ďshe stands up to meí. So that was clearly how he remembered me from my previous stay with him, all those years earlier. If you didn't stand your ground, he'd walk all over you.
"I had a great time during those final weeks of his life, and wouldn't have missed it for anything. I think that he really appreciated having a blood relative there at the end of his life. I was the only one that had ever been interested in him, and the only child that had ever bothered to chase him up over the years. I don't think that my brother made the most of his visit, but at least he got the opportunity to see his father, rather than just hear stories about him. Richard stayed for about 4 weeks before heading home. My father died 5 Ĺ weeks after I arrived. The community nurses were very kind and told me that had I not have been there, that he would have spent most of those last weeks of his life in hospital.My father had a warped sense of humour and maintained it in the face of his imminent death.As it was, I thought that he did a good job of dying.In the end he was only in hospital for about 36 hours. Richard left the day before Peter died, and I recall Peter gesturing him over to thank him for coming to see him.
"I stayed on and organised the funeral, and packed up his place and sent most of his stuff off to the Salvation Army and tied up any loose ends. My father and I had managed to organise some things before he died. It is an interesting experience to be sitting in the lounge room filling out the forms from the funeral parlour and asking my father questions like what were your parentís names, where were you born, and what do you want to be buried in? ĎMy swimmers and bootsí was his reply. And so he was. Iíd clearly seen too much TV, as Iíd thought that it was standard practice to be buried in a suit.
"As family historians you will have been told that the death certificate is the least reliable of the birth, death and marriage documents. Well my fatherís certainly demonstrates the point. Heíd told tall stories about his past all his life, and he did not change his tune even at the end. So his death certificate is full of lies - he took his family history to the grave. I guess it was easier to stick to his original story, rather than explain why he had told so many lies about his past. I did not think it appropriate to hassle my father about who he was, or where he came from, or how old he was. He was dying and as far as I was concerned, the time had passed for such questions. Also, you couldnít believe anything he said anyway - he had said that if you tell people what they want to hear, then they will believe you, so everything he said had to be taken with a grain of salt. If he knew that you were interested in something, then he would quite likely give you misleading information. I found that I might learn more if I simply just listened to what he said instead of asking questions.
"My father was not adverse to getting onto other menís wives! I assume the advantage of that was that if the woman fell pregnant, then as she was already married, she could pass the child off as that of her husband. I know of two other children that my father was responsible for, and I have my suspicions about a third. So I will not be surprised if one day I get a DNA match with either them, or their children, or grandchildren. I already know the names of two of them, and the first name of the third. All have different mothers, so goodness knows how many others there may be. I've often said that my father was not the sort of person that you would want your children to bring home and introduce as their new friend.
"My brother is well aware that he was better off growing up with his adoptive parents, rather than living with our mother and my step-father. As far as I can tell, Gladys and James were good people. As for me, Iím glad that I was not adopted by them, simply because they would not have told me that I was adopted. My mother has always been pretty open about her mis-spent youth, so I know far more about my family than most children would. There is something about that genetic link. How many of us have been fortunate enough to have located rare, old photographs of distant relatives and have been able to see a family resemblance that captivates many of us researching our family history, and to wonder about what character traits have literally travelled down through the generations in our genes and are not solely due to our environment?
"In a hundred years from now, I wonder what future generations researching my family will make of my parents, or how much they will even be able to figure out about their lives if all they know are the birth, death and marriage dates? Even finding us all could be a problem, though DNA should help with that. It's a complicated mix of breeding, even without the adoption thrown in. My parents' behaviour was not acceptable back in the 1950's and 60's, although it is commonplace today."
There will be more adoption stories in forthcoming newsletters, and if you've found them interesting I suspect you'll also like this article on The Guardian website about a man who fathered 200 children.
The average family in England & Wales is getting smaller, according to the latest information from the Office for National Statistics, which tracked women born in 1972, and compared them with a cohort born in 1945. It seems that without migration the population would be falling - and one of the causes is women choosing to have children later in life. See this BBC article for more details.
Professor Probert's recent article prompted LostCousins member Mike to send me this story from his wife's family:
"Rebecca Probertís interesting article in your 12 November newsletter opens with the question 'What was the impact of transportation on a marriage?'. My wife's family history holds one case where, so the husband hoped, transportation might release him from his marriage.
"Patís great grandmother, Sarah Raffe (nťe Dumbleton), died in 1864 shortly after giving birth to her seventh child.† This proved too much for the childrenís father, Joseph Archer Raffe, who took off, leaving them to the care of other family members.
"In June 1869 he acquired a new wife, a lady named Ann Taylor, but it seems that he very quickly discovered that this was not a good move for him. By September he was to be found setting fire to two barns and a cowshed belonging to a neighbouring farmer, and later assisting in efforts to quench the blaze. The following morning he walked into the local police station and confessed to the crime, his plan being to get himself convicted and transported to Australia, as a permanent escape from his unhappy life with Ann.† Sad to say, this didnít work out: found guilty, he was sentenced to six yearsí penal servitude.
"He was released from prison in 1874, but we have been unable to trace any record of his life after that date (or even his death), so donít know if he managed to avoid resuming married life with Ann."
I wonder if anyone reading this knows what happened to Joseph?
Last December, when Bitcoin was priced at around $17000, I mentioned that I was reducing my investments in peer-to-peer lending in case the inevitable crash led to high levels of default as people who had borrowed money to speculate were unable to repay loans. Nearly a year on the price of Bitcoin has fallen by over 75%, and I've also noticed higher than expected levels of bad debt on my Zopa ISA - though the projected return is still almost 5%, which is pretty good in these times of low rates. I suspect the worst is over - but only time will tell.
I've recommended the Echo Dot in the past - and I've just bought a second Echo Dot for just £24.99 in Amazon's Black Friday Sale (that's £10 less than this time last year). If you'd like to take advantage of this half-price offer please use the links below so you can support LostCousins:
In fact you can support LostCousins by using those links even if you buy something else entirely through Amazon (even if it's from one of their Amazon Marketplace suppliers).
If you've yet to discover Jayne Sinclair, the genealogist heroine of MJ Lee's novels, there's an opportunity to pick up Kindle versions of the first three for just £1.99 in the UK (or $1.99 in the US). That's not £1.99 each, it's £1.99 for the lot!
The offer begins on Tuesday 27th November but only lasts for a few days, so don't miss out! Please use the links below:
You can read my review of the latest title in the series, The Silent Christmas, here.
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 2018 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?