Newsletter - 28th September 2018
Ancestry.com.au free access weekend ENDS MONDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 20th September) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).
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!
Ancestry.com.au free access weekend ENDS MONDAY
Over 270 million records from Australia and New Zealand are available free this weekend at Ancestry's Australian site when you follow this link. As usual you'll need to register (or log-in if you have registered previously), but you won't be asked to provide credit card or bank details. To see a list of the records that are included in the free access weekend click here.
Note: if you try to view a record that isn't included in the free access offer you will be invited to subscribe, or to start a free trial, and in either of these cases you will have to provide payment information.
Today Findmypast added over 900,000 new entries to their amazing collection of Welsh parish registers - there are more details here.
If you have Welsh ancestry and have tested your DNA with Ancestry I'd like to invite you to participate in the project I'm running over on the LostCousins Forum. If youíre already a member you'll see a link to the project displayed when you log-in - but if youíre not a member yet check your My Summary page to see whether you qualify.
I've received many emails from members who have found errors or unusual entries in parish registers, but I was particularly interested in those from Llanferres in Denbighshire which LostCousins member Barry mentioned on the Society of Genealogist's mailing list earlier this month:
....the Rector wrote in 1791 in the register "The Baptisms and Burials not having been entered by my predecessor since the year 1785, I have inserted them from a Memorandum which I procured from the Parish Clerk". How much of that was guesswork? Or, "Mr Tamerlane [Rector] lost ye year 1751 and part of ye year 1752" and "The Account of baptisms and Burials during the years of 1811 and 1812 was mislaid through the carelessness of the then Parish Clerk". Best of all "There have been no entries in the parish register for the past three months because the vicar has been drunk"! If all that could go wrong in just one parish it seems reasonable to presume that there was a good chance of similar errors elsewhere.
Image © Welsh Archive Services / Gwasanaethau Archifau Cymru; used by kind permission of Findmypast
Solving genealogical puzzles has a lot in common with doing crosswords - you stare at the clues until you go glassy-eyed, then someone comes along, looks over your shoulder and says "Isn't 6 across such-and-such?". It's certainly true that involving someone else often helps, even if only by forcing us to re-examine the evidence.
But if we're going to knock down the 'brick walls' in our family trees on our own we have to understand our own biases, and compensate for them. One of mine is to delay ordering a certificate on the basis that it will be doubly-disappointing if it turns out to be the wrong person, and that even if it is the right person it wonít provide any useful information. These are valid fears - but they donít justify my failure to take a course of action that might, just might, provide the key piece of evidence that enables the other pieces of the jigsaw to fall into place.
Considering that a PDF copy of a birth or death register entry costs no more than a couple of cappuccinos it doesnít make sense to dilly-dally in the hope that "something will turn up", as Mr Micawber liked to say. And that's the price for England & Wales - copies of historic register entries for Scotland are even cheaper, and many Irish entries are completely free (so there's definitely no excuse). True, the statistics show that some of us are a bit worse off than we were (or thought we were) in 2008, but at £6 the cost of a PDF is less than the cost of a certificate in 2008 (it was £7 then).
And then there are the researchers who won't make use of DNA because they think of it as "cheating" or - perhaps more likely - because they're worried it might prove that their research is wrong. Ask yourself this simple question - do you want to know the truth or not? It all reminds me of the days when family historians were divided into those who used computers and those who didn't......
Banks seem to be continually pruning their branch network; but when I received a letter tellimg me that the Hatch End branch of Natwest was closing it wasn't a big blow - I hadn't darkened their doors for a quarter of a century. In truth banks donít need as many branches as they used to - indeed, some manage perfectly well without any branches at all.
But genealogy is very different from banking - family trees do need branches, and the more branches of your tree you research the more successful you'll be. Even if you have no interest in communicating with your 'lost cousins' (in which case you joined the wrong website!), the clues that fall into your lap when you research branches are many and various - from the names of witnesses to marriages, to the contents of wills, to the choice of names for children and grandchildren.
So donít close off your branches - research them for at least two generations, because you never know what you'll discover. Of course, in the process of tracking your branches and twigs you'll find many more relatives in the 1881 Census who you can enter on your My Ancestors page, so there's a good chance of a bonus, the discovery of some 'lost cousins'. Of course, you can also use DNA to find distant cousins, but itís not only much more expensive, itís much more time-consuming - especially if you haven't already researched the branches of your own tree.
Last week the Office for National Statistics revealed the most popular baby names of 2017 in England & Wales, which were Oliver and Olivia. Oliver has been the most popular name for boy babies since 2013, but Olivia has only been at the top since 2016 (the previous winner was Amelia). Once again my own name doesn't make the top 100 - Peter is way down the list at 183. What about your name? If you follow the link you can check it out.
Of course, as family historians know to their cost, most names can be spelled in several different ways so, whereas Muhammad was only 10th on this year's list, had all 14 spellings been counted as one it would have topped the chart. Interestingly Mohammed, which you might think is a recent addition to the pantheon of English forenames, was already in the top 100 back in 1924. (For comparison, Jesus wasn't in the top 100 in either year - just 4 boys were given this name in 2017, making it 3996th on the list.)†
The top 5 boys' names in 1924 were all traditional - John, William, George, James, and Thomas. But Ronald and Kenneth at 6 and 7 in the list are names you're unlikely to find in your tree before 1850. The top 5 girls' names in that year were Margaret, Mary, Joan, Joyce, and Dorothy - only Dorothy made it into the top 250 in 2017.
Talking of names, I read this week that the BBC are threatening to sue a dance teacher in Essex because she calls her business for larger people 'Strictly Curved', which they feel is too close to the name of the BBC series 'Strictly Come Dancing' (there an article about it on the BBC News site - you'll find it here). But, thinking about it, didnít 'Strictly Come Dancing' take the 'Strictly' part of its name from the film 'Strictly Ballroom'? That's certainly what I thought when the series launched in May 2004 (which by happy coincidence was the same month that LostCousins started), and Wikipedia seems to agree - so it certainly makes me wonder who is ripping off whom.†
When I've written recently about the trials and tribulations of finding the final resting places of our ancestors I've focused on locations in Britain, so I thought you might be interested to see another point of view. Allow me to hand you over to LostCousins member Christine:
"My husband is Polish and in a recent trip to Poland we thought that it would be a great opportunity to visit family graves with the hope of finding more information about his ancestors. We decided we would start with his grandfather. We knew where he was buried so we thought it was just a case of finding the graveyardÖ. but it wasnít so simple.
"The family for generations had lived in a country town in Poland, and the old church had a graveyard where the family had been buried. The church in Poland charges rent for gravesites on a 20-year basis. The area where my husbandís ancestors lived, which was once a country town, was now full of houses, as the towns slowly encroach into the countryside. The rent on the graveyard went up. So, as is common in Poland, the family moved the remainsÖusing vodka or methylated spirts to appease the dead and for sterilisation. And then the graveyard where the remains were moved to; also upped the rent and the remains were moved againÖ The result is that in some cases its exceeding hard to find your ancestors graves. For a corpse to be moved several times is not uncommon. If the rent isnít paid with a certain time the remains are disposed of along with many beautiful headstones. (attached photo example)
"So we knew where his grandfather was buried and we knew his grave was moved to on the first occasion, but we couldnít locate the final resting place... it is ironic that after he died he probably travelled to more locations than in his lifetime!"
Note: in the background of this photograph of a Polish cemetery, taken by Christine, you might just be able to see I the background that the beautiful old gravestones have gone, and been replaced with modern ones.
But itís not just in Poland that remains have been relocated after burial - the October 2017 issue of Significance magazine has an interesting article about the fate of the remains of William Playfair (1759-1823), a political economist who invented many of the types of graph that we're familiar with today, including the line graph, bar chart, and pie chart. Playfair died at St George's Hospital at Hyde Park Corner, and was buried at the Bayswater burial ground of St George, Hanover Square in a 1st Class plot - but he may not have remained there very long because, according to an 1853 article in The Lancet, it was common for the contents of graves to be surreptitiously relocated to a cheaper area so that the better plots could be resold. And that's assuming that body snatchers hadn't already stolen the corpse and sold it to a medical school.....
But whether or not Playfair's remains were relocated in the 19th century, by the time of the Great War the now-closed burial ground became part of the War Effort - the remaining headstones were stacked at the edges, and the land was used to grow vegetables; it continued to be used as allotments until after World War 2. Then, in 1964, an Act of Parliament was passed which allowed the valuable site to be redeveloped, and thousands of human remains were exhumed and cremated - though nobody knows whose remains they were, or how many still remain under the redeveloped site.
When I was researching the previous article I came across a website that I hadnít seen before - entitled London Remembers it is a project to document all of the memorials in London (there are already over 5000 in the database, including many that are no longer in existence). If you have connections to London itís well worth a look - you'll find the site here.
I'm old enough to remember London Bridge being sold to a buyer in the US, but this article on the BBC website offers a fascinating insight into an unusual story.
This wonderful story on the BBC website describes how a child, adopted in Vietnam by an American couple, eventually managed to track down his parents decades later. And for once DNA didnít play a part in the process.....
Having written several articles about inherited diseases I was interested to see how parents would react if they were offered free DNA check-ups for their children - and the answer was quite surprising. You can find out all about it here - would you make the same decision, I wonder?
Not everyone agrees when I recommend the Ancestry DNA test - I get occasional emails pointing out that Ancestry donít offer all the features that are available at some of the other sites, and that some of the simplifications they make could be misleading.
All this is correct - but for 99% of the readers of this newsletter it's also irrelevant. Most people donít want to become DNA experts, they simply want to take advantage of the opportunity DNA testing offers to knock down 'brick walls' in their family tree, and this is clearly something that Ancestry have recognised.
Having previously tested with Family Tree DNA, and used GEDmatch extensively, I initially found Ancestry very limiting - until I realised that the differences could work to my advantage, if only I adopted a different strategy. For me this was like a vision on the road to Damascus - it soon became apparent that most of the time I'd spent analysing my DNA matches at other sites was wasted, and that even for someone like me, who had spent many years learning about DNA, Ancestry's simple approach made better use of my time and energy. I had finally managed to knock down 'brick walls' that had been blocking my way for 15 years - it was an amazing experience!
Thatís why I sat down and wrote a Masterclass article explaining how anyone could, by following the same strategy, make the most of their own Ancestry DNA matches, simultaneously saving time and avoiding frustration. There's nothing sensational in the Masterclass - itís just good commonsense - but experience has shown that if someone is struggling with their DNA results, it's almost always because they havenít been following my advice to keeps things simple. A little knowledge can indeed be a dangerous thing!
Tip: the only way you can compare your DNA against the DNA of the more than 10 million people who have previously tested at Ancestry is to test with Ancestry yourself. If you want to find more matches, or if you simply want to fish in a different pond, you can transfer your raw data to several other sites - but itís a one-way process, Ancestry do not accept transfers of data from other providers.
The latest Jayne Sinclair genealogical mystery from the pen of MJ Lee is out today! It takes the form of a novella, rather than a full novel, but having read my review copy over the course of 2 days last week I can assure you that it's no less enjoyable.
As usual the author has carefully researched the period in which the historical events take place, so whilst the characters and dialogue are imagined, the backdrop is realistic - right down to the little brass boxes that Princess Mary, the daughter of King George V, organised for the troops who were serving overseas during Christmas 1914 (you can read about them here).
Of course, there's also a modern storyline, one that also takes place at Christmas, and the threads of the storyline are neatly twisted together, until on Christmas Day the final pieces fall into place - though there's an unexpected twist at the end that leaves us looking forward to the next instalment in this series.
Unlike the novels that preceded it, this novella is only available in Kindle format - but remember, you donít need a Kindle to read it! You can download a free Kindle app for your computer, your tablet, or your smartphone - it's also worth mentioning that, although I own a Kindle, I actually read this book on my smartphone, because it was the most convenient option given what else was going on at the time.
Whilst you donít need to have read the previous books in the series, they've all been reviewed favourably in this newsletter, and you can currently get a 'box set' of the first three Jayne Sinclair novels in Kindle format for just £5.99 (you'll find my original reviews here, here, and here). As usual you can support LostCousins by using the links below (whether you buy books or anything else from Amazon):
I'm always tempted by the books on offer from The Book People, particularly the lavishly illustrated hardbacks. This week I ordered 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins, partly as an early Christmas present for my wife, but you can be sure I'll be looking over her shoulder, and Dominion by Peter Ackroyd, which I am aiming to read while watching Jeremy Paxman's TV series about the British Empire. Also in my parcel was Hidden Histories (subtitled 'a Spotter's Guide to the British Landscape') so that I no longer feel quite so ignorant when I'm travelling through the English countryside, and Great Letters, a selection of more than 300 letters from The Times (sadly none of my own letters made the cut!).
If you're very quick you can pay even less than I did by using the discount code SAVE5 (provided you spend £30 or more), but even at the price I paid the books are a bargain - and with Christmas coming up you might well spot some Christmas presents amongst the many other titles on offer. The Book People also sell through Amazon, but there you'll have to pay delivery on top - when you buy direct you can get free delivery (within the UK) by spending £25 or more.
A couple of members who purchased the video doorbell I recommended recently pointed out that you donít have to rely on your smartphone to tell you when there's someone at the door - you can get a plug-in chime that connects wirelessly to the doorbell. Since it was only £6.99 I bought one, despite the mixed reviews, and I've been very pleased - if you havenít already discovered this handy device you'll find it here.
The latest Which? magazine has a glowing review of a new 55in 4k TV from Panasonic - but at £2499 it's much more than I'd ever pay for a TV (indeed, I can remember when you could buy a house for that price, and a proper house too, not a tiny box). But over on the Argos website they have a 65in 4k TV from HiSense for just £699, which seems to be an updated model of the one I've got (and which cost me slightly more). Of course, it isn't going to be as good as the Panasonic, but as most of the customers who reviewed it on the Argos site gave it 5 stars, it canít be that bad.
Talking of Which?, there's currently a drive to attract new subscribers. I can thoroughly recommend the magazine and website, having been a reader for over half a century, and a subscriber for most of that time - there's not much I buy without first checking what Which? has to say. When we were planning our new kitchen a couple of years ago I was on the site almost every day - our fridge/freezer, dishwashers, induction hob, ovens, and microwaves were all Which? recommendations, and they've all lived up to their promise. If you follow this link you can see what subscription options are available, and should you decide to subscribe you can cancel at any time - there is no commitment. (Note: you'll also be supporting LostCousins if you subscribe after clicking my link.)
The Book People have a new discount code GOLDEN20 valid Thursday 4th and Friday 5th only which gives 20% off all orders (see What am I reading? for links and the books I ordered).
© 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?