Newsletter - 13th January 2016
Less than 36 hours to save 50% at Findmypast ENDS THURSDAY 14TH
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 31st December) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. However I strongly recommend that you do what I do, and use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
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!
Less than 36 hours to save 50% at Findmypast ENDS THURSDAY
New subscribers can save 50% on a World subscription to Findmypast - but the offer ends at midnight (London time) on Thursday 14th January, so you've got to be really quick if you don't want to miss out!
You can subscribe through any of Findmypast's worldwide sites - just pick the appropriate link from the list below:
With a World subscription you'll have virtually unlimited access to almost all of Findmypast's billions of historical records and newspaper articles, plus the modern Electoral Register for the UK. The only exception is the recently-launched 1939 Register (which can only be accessed using credits).
Tip: you'll only be supporting LostCousins if you use one of the links above to purchase your subscription.
This year's Christmas Competition attracted nearly one thousand entrants, who between them added over 37,000 entries to their My Ancestors pages - resulting in numerous matches with new cousins and much excited correspondence over the holiday period.
Although everyone taking part had ancestors from the British Isles, only half of the 15 prizes were won by members living in the UK: 5 winners live in Australia, and 2 prizes were won by members in the USA. All of the winners have been notified.
How were the winners chosen? I used the Random Number Generator at RANDOM.ORG to pick 15 of the tens of thousands of relatives who had been entered by members during the period of the competition, and the prizes were allocated in order. One of the prizewinners joined during the first month that LostCousins was in existence (May 2004), whilst another joined after the competition had started.
Not surprisingly several prizes went to members who had entered large numbers of relatives, but one prizewinner had only entered one relative!
When we're researching our tree it's often necessary to put in a lot of effort in order to get results - but sometimes what we're lacking is inspiration. So I was heartened to receive this email from Susan:
"Whilst trying to find elusive cousins to enter into your Christmas competition, I came across a little nugget of information, so I felt I had to contact you to say thank you for giving me inspiration. I have in my possession a photograph of a young man, taken in the early 1900's which has "John Davies cousin" on the back. Well this being in Wales, I didn't think I would ever find out who he was, but in my searches I came across a Davies family which I am positive is the right one. So a BIG thank you from me, and please carry on with your good work, it is much appreciated..."
John sent me another example - in this case a serendipitous discovery resulted in his winning a prize in the competition and finding a new cousin:
"I followed a hint in my wife's Ancestry tree which led me to the will of her 4 x great grandfather, who died in 1829. In this will he named his two (deceased) sons, their 6 children (his grandchildren), as well as his daughter and her husband, whom he nominated as his executor.
"This is what is called a goldmine. I had previously only known of the one son who was my wife's 3 x g grandfather, and his one daughter who was my wife's 2 x g grandmother.
"As a result, in addition to the above mentioned, I found a whole string of other descendants in all the various branches, matched them up in 1841, 1881 and 1911 censuses and all in between, cranked them into Lost Cousins, thereby winning a prize, and, - even more wonderful, two of them have matched!"
In the last issue I set my New Year Challenge - to argue convincingly for the guilt or innocence of Arthur Daly, who was acquitted of murder by a jury in the early days of WW2. If you missed it the first time you can read all about it here.
The submissions so far are fairly evenly balanced between guilt and innocence - but I suspect there's something everyone has missed. Will you be the one to find the missing clue? Perhaps one day this story will be turned into a TV drama - it has all the right ingredients!
If you didn't take advantage of the British Newspaper Archive offer in the last newsletter you can access the same articles with a Findmypast Britain or World subscription (and if you did, remember that your monthly subscription will renew automatically unless the auto-renew box is unticked). It's really easy to search the newspaper articles by name at Findmypast:
81 of the 87 results relate to Dr Arthur Daly.
Ancestry have made available online parish registers from Northamptonshire - there are now over 7 million baptism, marriage and burial records in their collection, which extends from the commencement of parish registers right up to 1912.
It's not often that I review the same book twice - certainly not in the space of less than a year - but when the new enlarged edition of Andrew Todd's superb Nuts and Bolts came out I got hold of a copy immediately (and was flattered to recognise two quotes from my February 2015 review in the blurb at the back of the book!).
Although the new edition is longer it's still jam-packed with inspirational advice and useful information. For example, do you know how the time between birth and baptism changed over the centuries? Or that lots of people were buried in a different parish from the one they lived in? (These are just two of the invaluable snippets I gleaned from Chapter 7.)
One of the key reasons why I kept finding myself nodding in agreement as I read the book is the way the that the author continually emphasises the importance of researching the entire family, not just the direct line - indeed, the sub-title of the book is "Problem-Solving though Family Reconstitution Techniques". Anyone who has successfully connected with 'lost cousins' will appreciate how important it is to follow collateral lines.
Because online access to so many records is so easy nowadays, many of us - me included, I'm ashamed to say - often try to teleport from one direct ancestor to the next without taking the time to build up a picture of the family (the way we used to do things). There's a lot to be said for browsing through parish registers, whether on microfilm or online - you'll spot all sorts of things that might otherwise be missed. In a sense I'm fortunate that as a subscriber to Essex Ancestors I'm forced to do things 'the old way' (because, whilst online, the Essex registers are largely unindexed) - but if you need to be convinced of the merits of this approach then Andrew Todd's book will surely do it!
The truth is, whilst we all have 'brick walls' in our trees, very often they are of our own making: Family History Nuts and Bolts will inspire you to look again and discover clues that you missed first time around. Indeed, you'll probably find yourself reading this book more than once because there's so much to take in.
Although Nuts and Bolts now costs £8, at less than the cost of a single BMD certificate it could be the best £8 you ever spend! If you have 'brick walls' in your tree - and, let's face it, who doesn't - this 'back to basics' book is for you.
Note: as several overseas members have reported difficulty ordering the book I have obtained a small quantity which I will send anywhere in the world (once I have received payment, of course).
In 2013 I headed an article in this newsletter "Your cousins are dying to hear from you" in order to emphasise the brutal truth that if we delay the search for our living cousins we run the risk of leaving it too late.
I was reminded of that article when I read this article from the Huffington Post about a mother who died of cancer just two months after being reunited with her siblings. This was surely not the tragic ending that the newspaper headline implies? I would argue that in the circumstances it was the best of all possible endings, even though it must have been tough for her brothers to find then lose their sister.
From time to time I'm contacted by LostCousins members who have received the sad news that their illness is terminal - how brave of them to write to me! I sympathise, of course, but what I would really like to be able to do is wave a magic wand in order to connect them with the other members who are their 'lost cousins' - before it's too late.
So when I chide you for not completing your My Ancestors page it's not just because I hate to see you wasting a wonderful opportunity - it's also because the next member to contact me with tragic news could easily be your 'lost cousin'.
Note: I'd like to thank Debbie Kennett, DNA guru and LostCousins member, for alerting me to the Hufflington Post article via Google Plus. Coincidentally you can hear Debbie talking in the radio programme I'm going to write about next....
There's a lot to learn about DNA testing, but for me the real challenge is to avoid your judgment being contaminated by the less than admirable marketing practices of some of the testing companies. Even the firms I recommend can exaggerate the ability of their tests to divine our deep ancestry, but it's the companies you won't read about in my newsletter who are the real culprits.
In June last year BBC Radio 4 broadcast a very interesting programme called The Business of Genetic Ancestry, which exposed some of the more questionable practices - and you can hear it on BBC iPlayer wherever you are in the world (just follow this link).
Tip: to re-read my recent series of DNA article, which emphasise what these tests can and can't do, simply type "Understanding DNA" (including the quotes) into the search box near the top of this newsletter.
I've seen some interesting marriage register entries in my time, but this one takes the biscuit!
From records in the custody of the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York; reproduced by kind permission of Findmypast
Not only does everyone who took part in the marriage ceremony - the groom, the bride, the witnesses, even the vicar - have the same surname, they all shared a grandfather. Joseph and William Beckett, the witnesses, were brothers of the groom - as was the vicar - whilst the bride was their 1st cousin.
Talk about keeping it in the family! Do you have any similar entries in your tree? (Many thanks to LostCousins member Ian for allowing me to share this story with you.)
LostCousins member Jacqueline sent me this wonderful story about how, with the help of Jayne Shrimpton (the photo expert), she was able to correctly identify a photograph.
My second cousin Ann has gone through her attic yet again and found more priceless images of the Cox family which never made it to my own branch or those of my other second cousins.
As a result, I have found out where my great grandfather and his sisters went to school in Islington in the mid 1880s and when my great aunts and uncles celebrated “rites of passage” such as putting on long trousers, putting their hair up, dropping their hems and taking to wearing corsets, probably as they started work, and where they were living or working at the time.
Some of them had their 21st pictures taken. 3 were absolutely appallingly preserved images on Cartes de Visite, two different ones of a youngish man, my great grandfather, Henry Pilbeam Cox born in 1848, in a bowler hat holding a small child in a sailor suit, and an even worse, dreadful, one of an unknown very young man in long trousers and apparently fly-away tie and schoolish-type cap, but I knew they were taken by J H Dixon of King Street Maidenhead some time in the 1890s. The only one possible candidate for such a small child, if definitely a boy, taken the 1890s was Sidney, born in 1887.
The candidates in the family for a boy of about 15 years of age were rather limited, but could be my own great grandfather or one of his 3 older brothers born between 1876 and 1883, so I was keen to know which. Harry, born in 1876, died in July 1900 in Pretoria of dysentery, and Charlie born in 1879 died of diabetes in 1905 so the date of the original image was relevant to them.
I emailed Jayne Shrimpton about whether she could do her basic, cheapest, dating analysis of such dreadful images and she said, not unreasonably, that she'd have to see them first. The first surprise came when she replied that she could indeed date them reasonably closely, and the bigger surprise was that their condition was so dreadful partly because they were copies. I asked her to go ahead and also, pushing my luck a bit, whether the child in the sailor suit could be only a boy, because that information could help with the assignment of a name.
Regarding the man with the toddler, Jayne said of my third and worst photograph:
"I don’t have studio details for I H Dixon of Maidenhead, although the card mount looks broadly 1890s or perhaps early 1900s: the website www.cartedevisite.co.uk can provide dates......Studying the image, the photograph can be dated broadly from the man’s appearance in bowler hat, jacket with high lapels and winged collar to late-1880s to late-1890s, probably c.1887-97. The child in sailor collar is almost certainly a boy and he looks to be aged about two years old. Therefore I agree that he must be Sidney, born in 1887."
But the shock came when Jayne turned to the next image:
"Judging from the extremely poor image quality and the faded vignette effect, this is definitely a copy of a much earlier photograph, this copy being commissioned from J H Dixon, by ancestors living in Maidenhead.
"Turning to the image, we see a much earlier photograph of a lad dressed in the fashions of the 1860s, as evidenced especially by his peaked cap and horizontal necktie. This means that the boy, who looks to be aged about 12-16 years old, or thereabouts, cannot conceivably be Harry Cox (b.1876), but is probably an ancestor from the previous generation. This copy photo (perhaps dating from the 1890s/early 1900s) was probably made soon after his death, intended as a ‘memorial portrait’."
Well, my great grandfather, Henry Pilbeam Cox, was the second of 3 brothers, sons of Alfred Cox born c 1824-5, a telegraphic instrument maker, originally trained by his father, Henry Cox, clockmaker of Nottingham, and Akfred's wife Charlotte Bryant. Their first son was Alfred who was born in 1846, then came Henry in 1848 in Hoxton and then Lost Cousin's member Audrey Scott's great grandfather, George in 1853. The date of the image from the 1860s probably ruled out George but the lad could possibly have been Henry, or Alfred who was seen last in the 1861 census as a “telegraph instrument maker's boy.” Neither I nor 2nd cousin Audrey knew what happened to him after 1861. There are at RG11/169/70/42 and RG12/ 1045/23/42 census returns of a possible candidate in an Alfred Cox born about 1847, who was a surgical instrument maker, which is a possible likely career change, but this Alfred was born in Kensington, and I was never convinced by him, although others with public trees online were happy enough to own him.
Some years ago (shamefaced confession: I did not record the source) I found a reference to the burial on 28th February 1867 of one Alfred Cox aged 20 in Victoria Park Cemetery, Hackney (there was once a website for this cemetery, now apparently no longer available for 1867) from St Batholomew's Hospital.
I Googled St Bart's Archives and a very helpful archivist found the admission and discharge record for me. There was an address in Hoxton and an occupation – Telegraphic Instrument Maker – Bingo! Poor Alfred was ill for 3 months before dying from from a spinal condition which antibiotics could probably deal with now; the first born son, dead before he celebrated his 21st birthday. Alfred seems a suitable subject for a memorial. This copy, if it is of Alfred, was clearly not "made soon after his death" but was probably originally taken when he first went into long trousers and perhaps began his apprenticeship. And if not, it is my own great grandfather, photographed for the same "rite of passage." Either way, it is the earliest image I have seen for a member of our Cox family and without Jayne's analysis and remark that it was probably a copy of an 1860s image made as a memorial, I'd never have suspected the early original date for what I knew to be a photograph from roughly 1890.
The young man's face does not look sufficiently like Henry to convince me that this is the earliest image of my great grandfather, so I think that Alfred Cox has been rediscovered.
New usually means better and cheaper, especially when it comes to technology, so when I received an email from BT recently telling me about their latest call-blocking telephone, the BT6600, I naturally wanted to find out whether it was better than the BT8500, which has done a wonderful job of intercepting unwanted calls - I haven't been interrupted by a single spam call since plugging it in last summer.
I was surprised to learn that despite being the latest model in their call-blocking range, the BT6600 can only "block up to 80% of nuisance or unwanted calls", rather than 100%. Why bother - particularly since you can currently buy the BT8500 at a lower price, even from BT (although it's even cheaper at Amazon)? Oh, and the BT8500 has a coloured screen, which the new phones don't. So in this case new doesn't mean better and cheaper, but worse and more expensive - thank you BT!
Tip: the main difference between the two is the 'Call Guardian' feature - the BT8500 has it, but the BT6600 doesn't. My advice is: never buy a landline phone that doesn't have Call Guardian!
This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......