Newsletter - 17th January 2020



Academics criticise 2021 Census questions

ScotlandsPeople add an extra year of online register entries

Irish Genealogy add 1845-64 marriage images

Do you live in the EU?

Senate vote could change everything

More fantastic prizes to be won in my New Year Competition

How to be a winner

Mr & Mrs Double-Barrelled

Why don't Ancestry members reply?

103 year-old veteran gets his medals - at last!

The inside story of a War Hospital during the Great War

Lexicon: Chevy Chase

Review: The Death Certificate

Review: The Indelible Stain

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The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 8th January) 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!



Academics criticise 2021 Census questions

Family historians aren't the only ones who are unhappy with the questions that will - and won't - be asked in the 2021 Census, as you can see from this article in The Herald.



ScotlandsPeople add an extra year of online register entries

In January each year ScotlandsPeople add to their collection of birth, marriage, and death registers - all of which are provided by the General Register Office for Scotland. Civil registration didn't commence until 1855, but the information recorded is generally significantly more detailed (and more helpful) than you'd find on an English or Welsh certificate.


This year ScotlandsPeople have added births for 1919 (ie over 100 years ago), marriages for 1944 (over 75 years ago), and deaths for 1969. ScotlandsPeople is a pay-per-view site, but you can search and view the LDS transcription of the 1881 Scotland Census - the one we use at LostCousins - free of charge.



Irish Genealogy add 1845-64 marriage images

Claire Santry's Irish Genealogy News blog is a great source of information for those who have ancestors from the island of Ireland. The latest news is that the Irish government site has uploaded marriage registers for the period 1845-1864, which means that all of the civil registers of marriages for the period 1845-1944 are now online - and free to access!


Please bear in mind that the only civil registers kept prior to 1864 were for non-Catholic marriages. There are no civil records of births, deaths, or marriages before that date - so you'll have to rely instead on church registers, not all of which have survived, and not all of which are online.


Although there are no surviving Ireland censuses (other than scraps) prior to 1901, the fact that the civil birth, marriage, and death registers are free online makes it very feasible to track the branches of your Irish family tree through to the 1911 Census, which is the one we use at LostCousins (and is also free online).



Do you live in the EU?

As predicted last year, after the UK leaves the EU on 31st January subscriptions paid by LostCousins members living in the European Union will be subject to VAT at the standard rate applicable in their country - typically around 20%. I had hoped that this change wouldn't come into force until 31st December when the transitional period ends - or that some deal would be negotiated to free small organisations from this burden, but sadly that hasn't happened.


In the circumstances I'm gong to make it as easy as possible for LostCousins members in the EU to pay their subscriptions in advance, ahead of the 31st January deadline. This will save me paperwork, and it can save you money (especially if exchange rates move the wrong way - currently the pound is close to a low against most other currencies, including the Euro). Simply log-in to your LostCousins account, go to the Subscribe or Renew Subscription page, then enter one of the following codes:



Length of subscription (months)

Single subscription

Joint subscription






25 (1 bonus month)




38 (2 bonus months)




66 (6 bonus months)




If you have an existing subscription the new subscription will start when the old one has finished (the start and end dates will be clearly shown both on screen and in your email receipt). If you upgrade from a Single subscription to a Joint subscription the upgrade will take effect immediately, ie you will get a free upgrade for the remaining period of your existing subscription.


Note: these codes can also be used by members who don't live in the EU, but only until 31st January 2020.



Senate vote could change everything

As members who live in France will know, it is currently illegal to take a DNA test, even if only for genealogical purposes. However there is currently legislation before the French Senate which would allow DNA testing for genealogical, though not health purposes - you can find out more here (Chrome will do a very good job of translating the text if your French isn't up to it).


Will this solve the problem? Possibly - but as the tests for genealogical and health purposes often use the same technology most tests do both, though you only get the health information if you pay extra.



More fantastic prizes to be won in my New Year Competition

Have you entered my New Year Competition yet? It's easy to take part - all you need to do is add relatives to your My Ancestors page, which is something that all keen family historians should be doing anyway! There were scores of new cousins exchanging emails over the Christmas period, all because one or other (or both) of them had given up a few minutes of their time.



This year I'm unveiling the prizes more gradually, to keep up the suspense. In previous issues you'll have read about the free tickets for Family Tree Live and the autographed paperback of The Death Certificate - Stephen Molyneux's wonderful follow-up to his debut novel, The Marriage Certificate (see the review below).



In the last issue I revealed that you could win a free copy of Family Historian 7, the soon-to-be-released version of Britain's leading family tree program, and that Findmypast, Britain's leading family history company, had generously agreed to donate a 12 month Pro subscription - providing virtually unlimited access to every one of the billions of historical records, modern records, and newspaper articles in Findmypast's enormous collection.


The BIG news this time is that I've also persuaded Findmypast to give away a free 12 month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive, with tens of millions of pages from historical newspapers and magazines.



Also added to the prize list is a signed copy of the next book in the Forensic Genealogist series, kindly donated by Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the author. Itís not out yet, but I've got an advance copy and hope to review it in the next newsletter.



How to be a winner

Anyone can win a prize in the competition - but only if you enter!


Simply complete your My Ancestors page, adding relatives from the censuses I've selected, but giving priority to the 1881 censuses (because they're not only the most likely to match with your cousins' entries they also count double in the competition). Not sure what to do? See the illustrated Getting Started guide on the Help & Advice page - you can become an expert in 10 minutes or less.


Wondering which of your relatives to enter? Think you've already entered them all? Here are some tips:


Tip #1: remember that ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, so itís the branches and twigs that you need to track through to 1881. The best way to find 'lost cousins' is to enter their ancestors, so it doesn't matter if your ancestors migrated before 1881.


Tip #2: a good approach is to start with all the relatives you know about in 1841 (whether you can find them on the census or not), then track each family member as they marry and have children, until you get to 1881. Now that the GRO's birth indexes for England & Wales include maiden names it's a lot easier than it used to be.


Tip #3: always think of your cousins; if you only enter relatives from the ancestral lines you're currently working on, how are your cousins going to benefit from your past research?


Tip #4: click the arrow symbol to launch a census search so that you can check your entries; if you don't get any results it usually means that one of the census references is wrong.


In this competition everyone can win - because even if your name doesnít come out of the hat when the prizes are awarded, you're going to find 'lost cousins' - living relatives who not only share your ancestors, but are researching them!



Mr & Mrs Double-Barrelled

It's rare to find hyphenated surnames in the 19th century GRO indexes, but nowadays it's common to have a hyphenated surname. Is there a simple rule as to when to use a hyphen - it seems not, judging from this BBC News article.



Why don't Ancestry members reply?

Whether or not you're researching using DNA, getting replies from other users can be problematical - and the site that most people complain about is Ancestry. It's not necessarily Ancestry's fault - the same problem can happen with Findmypast emails and even LostCousins emails.


It's generally the fault of the email provider the recipient uses - they see lots of superficially similar emails coming from one source and assume that they must be spam. Hotmail and Yahoo are arguably the worst offenders (this usually includes other addresses run by the same companies, such as BT addresses). In the past Gmail has generally been reliable but I have noticed recently that they too are failing to deliver some LostCousins emails.


Even if your Ancestry contact receives your message they might not feel able to respond, or might put it at the bottom of their pile. Although people may be active on Ancestry, they may not be actively researching the part of your tree that you are interested in - indeed, it would be a remarkable coincidence if they were. Sadly few people these days have worked in an office where it was normal to send acknowledgements of receipt!


Furthermore, if they're not a cousin of yours they may never have researched that part of their online tree - they may have simply copied it from someone else's tree. At Ancestry and other sites it can be exceedingly difficult to find out whether someone is a cousin just by looking at their tree, since two or more trees are often combined into one, and the details of living people are hidden so it isn't always clear whether the person you're corresponding with is the 'home person'.


Note: this is why at LostCousins we ask members not to enter someone else's relatives, and why we show explicitly how relatives are connected (on the My Contact page for the relationship - accessed by clicking the other person's name or initials on your My Cousins page).


In most cases the only way you can improve the response rate is by making it really easy for people to reply - ask them a simple question and give them a little bit of information of your own. If you can entice them by hinting at more to come, so much the better.


Tip: if you've tested your DNA you can avoid most of the frustration by following the simple strategies in my DNA Masterclass. These are designed to focus your attention on the genetic cousins who have online trees (so are likely to be actively researching), and particularly on those who have the largest trees. It's not enough to read the Masterclass, of course, you also need to do what it says!



103 year-old veteran gets his medals - at last!

Many former soldiers didn't bother to collect their campaign medals when WW2 was over, though my Dad finally obtained his in the mid-1950s. But this story of a 103 year-old who has only just collected his medals probably sets some sort of record!



The inside story of a War Hospital during the Great War

Findmypast have recently released some additional medical records from WW1 (you can search them here), and I found a record of my grandfather that I hadn't seen before. I was having trouble interpreting the abbrevation and hoped there would be glossary at the beginning or end of the register - sadly there wasn't, but it led me on a voyage of discovery, as these things often do.


Hoping to find another source I used Google to search for 'Army Book 27a', as it was designated - it didn't lead to the answer I was looking for, but it did lead me to reprint of a book published in 1917 entitled Observations Of An Orderly: Some Glimpses Of Life And Work In An English War Hospital - and the Kindle version is free. I was particularly interested to read of some of the (printable) slang that was used by soldiers back then, so much so that the next article features one of the term, one that has a surprising origin. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


Lexicon: Chevy Chase

I suspect that most people faced with the phrase 'Chevy Chase' would think of the actor, or perhaps the town in Maryland, USA. But it actually goes back much further, to English ballads of the 15th and 16th centuries which tell the tale of a hunting party in the Cheviot Hills, which straddle the border between Scotland and England. (The word 'chase' refers to hunting land, as in Enfield Chase, to the north-east of London.)


At the time of the Great War the term 'chevy chase' was Cockney rhyming slang for 'face', and widely used in the British Army. Knowing its origins isnít going to make you a better researcher, but - you never know - it might help you win a pub quiz!



Review: The Death Certificate

Like me you're probably used to the leading characters in genealogical mysteries being professional genealogists with clients who bring them interesting (and often dangerous) assignments; indeed, sometimes the books read like a James Bond novel, albeit more 1837 than 007. But Peter Sefton, the hero of Stephen Molyneux's mysteries is one of us - in other words, he's a family historian rather than a professional genealogist.


In The Marriage Certificate he stumbled across the certificate of the title in an antiques market, and he was intrigued by it - as most of us would have been in the same circumstances. I frequently come across similarly intriguing items in auction sales - it helps that there's major auction house just round the corner from LostCousins - that's how I discovered Ernest Cawcutt's WW2 notebook, and the 1838 sampler listing the birthdates of William & Mary Godwin's family. So I'm a sucker for stories which start with small clues that set the hero on a voyage of discovery, and I know that many of you are, too.


The Death Certificate involves another chance encounter - though not with the certificate of the title. We learn that Peter Sefton has a second hobby, metal-detecting, and this time his interest is sparked by the unusual find of a bronze Roman coin that has been worn as a necklace in Victorian times. It bears the name of its last owner, and because it is a rare surname Peter Sefton is able to identify him in the GRO death indexes - so he orders the death certificate to find out how he died. And as you can probably guess, he didn't die peacefully in his sleep.


Although the coin was found in a Wiltshire field, much of the action takes place in Victorian London - where we are introduced to toshers, and the scavengers known as mudlarks. It's hard not to feel sympathetic towards the hero/villain at the centre - like many a character from Dickens, he's only doing what he has to do in order to survive.


The Death Certificate was well worth waiting for - and I certainly hope that it won't be the last in this series. It's available both as a Kindle book and as a paperback - remember that you don't need a Kindle to read the electronic version, as free reader programs are available for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


Note: if you missed my recent interview with Stephen Molyneux you'll find it here.



Review: The Indelible Stain

Almost exactly a year ago I reviewed Blood-Tied, the first book in the Esme Quentin series of genealogical mysteries from Wendy Percival - I really enjoyed it, and a few months later I was delighted to be able to tell readers of this newsletter how they could get a free Esme Quentin short-story, Legacy of Guilt - which is a prequel to the first book in the series.


I've been so busy over the past year that I've only finished reading The Indelible Stain, the second full-length Esme Quentin novel - and what a good story it is! The author was inspired by reading Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore, which is a meticulously researched account of the transportation of convicts to Australia between 1787 and 1868, and the founding of Australia. To be transported you didn't have to commit high crimes and misdemeanours - two of the most common crimes which resulted in a sentence of penal transportation were petty theft and prostitution.


However - the action in The Indelible Stain doesn't take place in Australia but in England, on the North Devon coast, where the wrongdoings of the 19th century are still affecting people's lives in the 21st century. And their deaths too - the book opens with a gruesome discovery, a woman spread-eagled on the rocks below the clifftop. Did she jump or was she pushed? Or was it no more than tragic accident - by all accounts she had been drinking the previous evening?


The local police are convinced there was no foul play involved, but Esme has her suspicion, - so she takes up the challenge, in the course of which there are some interesting twists and turns in the plot that might well throw you off the scent! As it happens I did manage to figure it out before Esme, but will you? I suspect not....


I'd have no hesitation in recommending this book at full price, whether as a paperback or in Kindle format, but if you're in the UK or the US you can currently get the Kindle version for just 99p/99c (offer ends noon 23rd January); unfortunately Amazon don't currently allow similar price cuts in other countries. If you use the links below LostCousins should benefit, even if you end up buying something completely different:†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††



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......



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2020 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?