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Newsletter – 28th September 2022



BREAKING NEWS: Flash sale at Findmypast OFFER EXTENDED

My birthday gift – to you! FREE COUSINS

When is an ancestor not an ancestor?

Nelson’s hair sold at auction

Richard III – still causing controversy

Why the Queen’s coffin was hauled by the Royal Navy

Turning the clock back – what happened when George V died

Where there’s no will…. problems at the probate website

Why did you test your DNA?

Ancestry’s SideView is about to do what we really wanted all along

Will Tennent’s band of Bastards

A fascinating discovery

Wise words from the late Hilary Mantel

Gardeners Corner: Variegations on a Theme

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press



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




BREAKING NEWS: Flash sale at Findmypast OFFER EXTENDED

I’ve just heard that from today until Friday Monday you can save 20% on ANY new 12 month subscription to ANY of Findmypast’s worldwide sites. All of the offers start and end at 10am London time, but for your convenience I’ve given a local equivalent next to the links below. If you’re in North America you’ll need to subscribe by Thursday Sunday night (or else get up very early indeed on Friday) Monday.


Whilst there are also discounts on shorter subscriptions the saving only applies to the first payment, so to make a worthwhile saving you really need to go for the 12 month subscription. This will not only help to protect you against inflation, shorter subscriptions don’t qualify for Findmypast’s Loyalty Discount scheme (see the note at the end of this article).




There is also a Starter (or Essential) subscription but, as the name implies, it’s aimed at beginners – most people reading this would find it too limited. All subscriptions allow you to create an online family tree if you want (or upload an existing tree in GEDCOM format, which is supported by all family tree programs).


I’m often asked whether Findmypast is better than Ancestry – my answer is always that if you can afford it, you should subscribe to both (because many key records are only found at one site or the other), but if you can’t, choose the site which you’ve never subscribed to before, or if you’ve tried both, the site that has more of the parish registers for the counties which you’re currently researching.


Bear in mind that your counties of interest are likely to change and multiply as your research progress: all of my ancestors were in London at some point during the 19th century, but in almost every case they had come from further afield. For example, my great-great-great grandfather John Holmes was born in London, but his parents married in Devon, and his father was stationed there with the Staffordshire militia. Similarly, my great-grandfather Alfred Bea(u)mont was born in London, but his father was born in Hertfordshire, and his maternal grandfather came from Kent.


Findmypast currently has images of the parish registers for: Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, most of Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire, much of Yorkshire, and most of Wales. Findmypast also has a vast collection of transcribed register entries, thanks to the company’s close relationships with family history societies.


See my Masterclass Tracking down pre-1837 baptisms and marriages for a comparison between the registers held by Ancestry and Findmypast (it’s over a year old, but still pretty much up to date). These days parish register images for a few counties are available at more than one site, but whilst the images might be the same, the transcripts and indexes are likely to differ, so that’s something else to take into consideration.


This offer isn't exclusive - you can only support LostCousins by using the relevant link below (and try the link anyway, even if you've missed the deadline as there is often a grace period):


Findmypast.co.uk – SAVE 20% on 3 and 12 month subscriptions ENDS 10AM (London) MONDAY


Findmypast.com.au – SAVE 20% on 1 and 12 month subscriptions ENDS 7PM (Sydney) MONDAY


Findmypast.com – SAVE 20% on 1 and 12 month subscriptions ENDS 5AM (New York) MONDAY


Findmypast.ie – SAVE 20% on 1 and 12 month subscriptions ENDS 10AM (Dublin) MONDAY


Tip: Findmypast currently offer members with 12 month subscriptions 15% Loyalty Discount on automatic renewals – so other things being equal you shouldn’t be faced with a swingeing increase in a year’s time. And should circumstances change, you can always cancel before the renewal date – it’s your option.



My birthday gift – to you! FREE COUSINS

It’s the time of year when my age goes up another notch – to 72 this time, but who’s counting?


I gave up having birthday parties long ago, and my wife knows better than to organise a surprise party, but it gives me great pleasure to think of LostCousins members making new connections – so I’ve decided that the LostCousins website will be totally free until Monday 10th October. That gives you two long weekends and the week in between to take advantage of this opportunity.




Did you know that you can find out how the other member is connected to you even before you contact them? Click their name or initials on your My Cousins page and you’ll be taken to the My Contact for that relationship. This will show how each of the relatives you share are related to each of you – information which is used to calculate whether you are cousins or, perhaps, only related by marriage. It’s a good idea to check what the connection is before trying to make contact, and it’s essential that you do so before corresponding with someone.


Tip: although some of the contacts you make will only be related to you by marriage, it’s usually the case that you’ll both be cousins to the descendants of that marriage – which means that you have a common interest in that branch.



When is an ancestor not an ancestor?

The My Ancestors page is absolutely fundamental to the LostCousins system, but despite the name given to the page, most of the relatives you enter there won’t be direct ancestors of yours – the vast majority will be cousins of your ancestors (which, of course, makes them cousins of yours). So the answer to the riddle “When is an ancestor not an ancestor” is “When it’s an entry on your My Ancestors page”.


You might be one of the thousands of LostCousins members whose British ancestors all emigrated long before the 1881 Census – which means you can’t enter any of your direct ancestors. You might be surprised to learn that this makes very little difference to your chances of finding ‘lost cousins’ – because most of your living cousins are descended from relatives who stayed behind.


In fact the most important people to enter on your My Ancestors page aren’t your own ancestors, but your cousins’ ancestors. You might think “I don’t know who my ‘lost cousins’ are, so how can I enter their ancestors?”, but that’s looking at it from the wrong direction. Simply enter as many as possible of the deceased cousins you can find in 1881, because it’s their descendants who are your living cousins.


You might be even more surprised to learn that entering the relatives from 1881 won’t simply connect you to British cousins whose direct ancestors were recorded on that census, but also to cousins around the world whose ancestors had migrated! That’s because they’ll have done exactly the same as I’ve asked you to do – enter their cousins from 1881.  



Nelson’s hair sold at auction

A brooch containing a lock of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s hair has recently been sold at auction for more than twice the pre-sale estimate – see this article at the BBC News website.


Could Nelson’s DNA be extracted from the hair? In the past it was thought that only mitochondrial DNA is found in rootless hair, but in recent years fragments of nuclear DNA have been extracted from samples – so it’s just possible that some of Nelson’s DNA might be recoverable (though the cost is likely to be prohibitive).



Richard III – still causing controversy

Due to be released on 7th October, The Lost King is about the discovery of the remains of King Richard III under a Leicester car park, perhaps one of the most astonishing archaeological searches of all time.


Richard has long been a controversial character – some believe he ordered the murder of ‘the Princes in the Tower’, others consider him no worse than his contemporaries. However this film isn’t about Richard, but about the sequence of events that led up to the discovery of a skeleton, and its identification as that of the King whose character Shakespeare so comprehensively assassinated.


When I read about the film in this BBC article I could understand why Philippa Langley, the instigator of the search, had felt ignored – thinking back 10 years I can’t recall ever being aware of her key role in the discovery. Whilst some of the scenes in the film may have been invented for dramatic effect, I get the feeling that academics whose feathers have been ruffled ‘doth protest too much’ as Shakespeare memorably wrote.


Note: there’s also a book, written by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones, which is available now from Amazon – it was previously published as ‘The King’s Grave’.



Why the Queen’s coffin was hauled by the Royal Navy

I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who wondered why, with so many horses in evidence, the carriage bearing Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was hauled by men and women of the Royal Navy. It all goes back to Queen Victoria’s funeral, as this article from the Coventry Evening Telegraph of 4th February 1901 explains:



Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All rights reserved. Used by kind permission of Findmypast


This film footage of the funeral (which my wife found online) doesn’t show the problem itself but you’ll notice that the procession suddenly stops, then at 8 minutes and 14 seconds in you see the gun carriage coming into view, hauled by sailors.


Note: a letter to The Times in 1936 provided a slightly different version of the story – you can read it here, in the postscript at the bottom of the page.



Turning the clock back – what happened when George V died

When George V died he was succeeded by his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, who chose the title Edward VIII.


Edward didn’t achieve much during his short and unhappy reign, but the uncrowned King did make one lasting change – after consulting Queen Mary, the widow of the late King, he ordered that the clocks at Sandringham House be put back to Greenwich Mean Time. The clock of the parish church was also adjusted.


You can read more about this change and the reason why the clocks showed a different time in the article on the right, taken from the Sleaford Gazette of 24th January 1936.


Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Used by kind permission of Findmypast.


Interestingly, when the Staffordshire Sentinel published a similar article a few days earlier they referred to Queen Mary as the Queen Mother. This is the only time I can recall seeing Queen Mary described in this way – Edward VIII was unmarried, for reasons that we all know only too well, so there was no need to distinguish Queen Mary from any consort. See also the article entitled The King Father in the last issue of this newsletter.


As has happened in 2022, there were articles in the newspapers of 1936 talking about new coins that would bear the head of King Edward VIII – they, of course, never appeared, though there were postage stamps issued.



Where there’s no will…. problems at the probate website

At the beginning of February I wrote that the Government’s probate website was back online, allowing the ordering of post-1858 wills for England & Wales. However nearly 8 months later the site still has many faults, making it difficult – and sometimes impossible – to order wills, especially for those who do not have a subscription to Findmypast or Ancestry.


During this difficult period there has been an ongoing discussion on the LostCousins Forum, and anyone who has written to me about problems they were experiencing have been referred to the forum (you don’t need to be a member of the forum to read most of the content, only to post messages of your own). This week some of the contributors have, at my request, posted summaries of the current position, based on their own experiences. If you plan to order wills, or have had problems doing so, I’d thoroughly recommend that you read what others have written.


Thank you to all those who have contributed to that discussion.


Note: if you have already qualified to join the forum there will be a link and a code near the top of your My Summary page; if you haven’t yet qualified just add more relatives to your My Ancestors page, ideally from the 1881 censuses (a Match Rating of 1 or more is currently sufficient to earn you an invitation, though the threshold may increase in future). Remember that it’s the relatives from the branches of your tree who are most likely to connect you to your ‘lost cousins’, so these are the relatives to enter – it doesn’t much matter where your own ancestors were in 1881.



Why did you test your DNA?

Most family historians turn to DNA in order to knock down the ‘brick walls’ that are preventing them researching further back. You would think, therefore, that this important goal would take priority when the results come through, typically about a month after sending off the test.


However, what most people actually do when they get their DNA results is rather different. In their excitement they forget the reason they took the test, and instead try to figure out how they’re connected to the people they’ve been matched with, starting with the closest cousins near the top of the list, and focusing on the people they don’t already know. All good fun, but not what was supposed to happen!


So what should they do instead? Bearing in mind that the reason for taking the test was to knock down your ‘brick walls’, surely it makes sense to focus on the matches which are most likely to help achieve that goal? It’s unlikely that those cousins will be near the top of the list – they’re more likely to be somewhere in the middle, which means that if you work your way down the list you’ll never get to them!


Since you’ve got upwards of 10,000 matches you’re not going to find the cousins who are most likely to help simply by picking people at random, or based on their Ancestry user name – you need a well-thought out strategy, and that’s where my DNA Masterclass wins hands down. The simple, but effective, strategies set out there will pick out the matches which are most likely to help, enabling you to get the most out of your test in the least possible time.  


It’s important to remember that to knock down 'brick walls' using DNA you don't need to find a cousin who has already knocked down the same 'brick wall' – after all, if there was such a person you wouldn't need to use DNA, you could just search Ancestry trees. The power of DNA lies in the fact that it can substitute for incomplete or missing records, prompt us to reassess incorrectly recorded register entries (eg where the vicar has entered the wrong name), or draw our attention to records that would otherwise seem implausible because of the location or timing.


In other words, DNA allows us to knock down 'brick walls' that are resilient to other methods of investigation. For example, last year one of my oldest ‘brick walls’ came tumbling down, not because one of my cousins had already figured out who the parents of my great-great grandmother were, but because amongst my DNA matches were two cousins who were descended from previously unknown siblings of my ancestor. None of us knew of the others’ existence, none of us knew of the other siblings – it was a perfect example of how DNA can work miracles, provided you go about it the right way.


Note: you can read the story of that particular discovery in two articles published in the newsletter – you’ll find them here and here.   



Ancestry’s SideView is about to do what we really wanted all along

When I first heard about Ancestry’s SideView technology in a presentation to industry insiders I was excited about the opportunity to discover which side of my DNA tree matches were from – but the first application was to ethnicity estimates, which for most of us are not the reason we tested.


Yesterday I learned, courtesy of LostCousins member Tim, that the next stage is imminent – you can read all about it here. Just about everything to do with DNA is based on statistical algorithms, so I’m not expecting perfection – but this new feature should still save me a lot of time.



Will Tennent’s band of Bastards

Last week a fascinating article was published in the English Historical Review – you can read it free online. Subtitled Illegitimate Children, Parenthood and Siblinghood in Ireland, c.1759–1832 it deals with William Tennent, a successful businessman who fathered at least 13 illegitimate children, with multiple women, before his eventual marriage in 1805.


He does at least seem to have made some provision for the upkeep of the children, though by all accounts it was never enough to meet the mothers’ needs. Things were no doubt rather different for my own illegitimate ancestors…..



A fascinating discovery

I get to hear many fascinating tales, and these days many of them involve discoveries made following a DNA test. I’m fortunate to be able to share with you this story from LostCousins member Andy:


“Some years ago, I contacted a member on Ancestry where it appeared we had a family connection; my great uncle, on my maternal side, was the lady’s grandfather. Move forward a few years and the lady asked if I would take an Ancestry DNA test as she had doubts as to her biological father. I took the opportunity to expand any possible DNA matches to both sides of my family so my daughter took the DNA test which confirmed the lady's doubts.


“However, my daughter's result showed a match at 508cMs to a family which I could not find any common surname or location so contacted the member but they were unable to help with establishing where the family link was.


“Fast forward to early last year when our daughter had a 583cM match show up at Ancestry, but again I could not find any obvious similar surnames. I contacted the match – I'll refer to her as 'M' – who had a well-documented tree, and we exchanged a few details but neither of us had any idea who the common ancestor could be. From the matches I had from the Ancestry DNA test I had then recently taken with them I could exclude my ancestors. Eventually and having been up a number of blind alleys it seemed we could also exclude my wife's paternal line which left her maternal line as the likely link. Looking at our daughter's other matches, specifically that at 508cMs, there was also a close link with M.


“By a process of elimination looking through records on M's tree I came up with her family, well to be precise a father, mother and three sons, one of these sons being M's father, recorded in an incoming passenger list. As the address for the family was in an area where my wife lived as a child, I asked her did she know the location. Yes, said my wife, in fact she knew the family! My wife's family and M's father's family recorded on the passenger list were close friends and back in the 1950's the families used to holiday together.


“To try and confirm the connection my wife took a DNA test and whilst waiting for the results she contacted M's father. We met - the first meeting my wife and M's father had, or even spoken, in over 55 years! Following my wife's DNA results which showed a 1229 cMs match to M it was fairly evident as to the relationship with M's father. M's father then took a DNA test which came back showing a match at 1562 cMs with my wife – they being half siblings!


“So, my wife's biological father is not as shown on her birth, marriage or official records. It just goes to show that all the research carried out over many years supported by official documentation is open to further scrutiny.”


I’m very glad that Andy made that final point – so often family historians are convinced that their tree must be correct, because they have the documentation to prove it.



Wise words from the late Hilary Mantel

When Hilary Mantel delivered the Reith Lectures in 2017 she included the following words, which all family historians should take to heart:


Evidence is always partial. Facts are not truth, though they are part of it — information is not knowledge. And history is not the past — it is the method we have evolved of organising our ignorance of the past. It’s the record of what’s left on the record.


It’s the plan of the positions taken, when we to stop the dance to note them down. It’s what’s left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it — a few stones, scraps of writing, scraps of cloth. It is no more “the past” than a birth certificate is a birth, or a script is a performance, or a map is a journey.


It is the multiplication of the evidence of fallible and biased witnesses, combined with incomplete accounts of actions not fully understood by the people who performed them. It’s no more than the best we can do, and often it falls short of that.



Gardeners Corner: Variegations on a Theme

If you would like to know how to make the best use of variegated shrubs in your garden please follow this link to my wife’s latest article.



Peter’s Tips

Recipes that require the use of lemon peel usually specify that the lemons should be unwaxed – after all, nobody wants to eat wax or chemicals. But whilst my wife grows lemons (yes, here in England!) there aren’t nearly enough to meet all of our needs, so I have to buy in further supplies. However in my supermarket (Tesco) the only lemons described as unwaxed cost £1.80 for 3, whereas their standard lemons cost half that, just 30p each.


Removing the wax using hot water isn’t difficult – the wax floats to the top. Except that it didn’t when I tried it out with a pack of Suntrail Farms lemons – Tesco’s budget brand, and my usual choice because a net of 4 small lemons costs just 50p. I soon figured out why: they don’t use wax or any other additives on the budget lemons, which makes them a real bargain buy!


I mentioned recently that you can save energy by only boiling the amount of water you need, and that one easy way to get it precisely right is to fill the mugs or cups you’re going to be using with cold water, then tip it into your kettle. But what should you do if you boil too much water? Perhaps surprisingly, the best thing you can do is add cold water to the kettle. How much you add will depend on how much water you will need to boil next time, but adding the cold water immediately will reduce the rate at which heat is lost to the surroundings.


This week I made another batch of Shepherd’s Bullace jam – more than enough to see us through to next year. Now the only question is what to do with our surplus tomatoes, do I turn them into jam or chutney?



Stop Press

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......



I’ll be back next month, a year older, but not necessarily any wiser. See you again soon!


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2022 Peter Calver


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