Newsletter – 5th January 2021
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 26th December) 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!
In her New Year message, Tamsin Todd, the CEO of Findmypast has confirmed that the 1921 Census for England & Wales will be released in early 2022, as expected – though she didn't give a precise date.
The 1921 Census will most probably be the last England & Wales census to be released during my lifetime – the 1931 Census was destroyed in World War 2, and the 1941 Census didn’t take place (thankfully we have the 1939 Register instead). By law the 1951 Census cannot be released before 2052 – a very long time to wait for anyone who is trying to uncover family secrets from that period.
I'd love to think that I'll still be around in 2052 to see myself in the 1951 Census – but though more and more people are living to 100 the odds must be against, and at times like these I'll just be grateful to make it to my next birthday!
Note: I'm lucky to have been born just before a census – someone who was born just after a decennial census would have to live until they were 110 to see their own entry in the next one.
Two years after Frances Lake joined LostCousins in 2006 she founded the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons Group, about which I've written several times over the past decade. At my request Frances kindly drafted the following article to bring readers up to date about the situation in Northern Ireland:
Thank you for your continued interest in the work of the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons Group. Some of the longer-term subscribers to your newsletter may remember that I started DAP in 2008, as a means of finding out how many other people, like me, were affected by an anomaly in the Adoption Act, that prevented descendants from accessing information about their deceased adoptive relatives (in my case, my father).
At that time, I could not have foretold how important this group would become in leading a campaign for change and how relieved and excited I was when Parliament finally laid down the Amendment to the Adoption Regulations in 2015. This meant that after years of campaigning; including taking the matter to the Family High Court in London and being helped by some very important people, both in Parliament and the adoption world, that the GRO was at last able to start accepting applications for access to birth records from intermediary agencies, acting on behalf of relatives.
However, disappointingly, it turned out that the amendment to the Act only applied to adoptions that had taken place in England and Wales and so there was a need for someone to start a campaign for change in the legislation of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
At last, I can offer a glimmer of hope to relatives in Northern Ireland.
In August 2020, I was contacted through the DAP website by David Junkin. He was angry that he could not access his deceased father’s adoption records, and complained that the law in Northern Ireland was outdated and behind the times. He thought there would be lots of other people in the same boat, but they needed a voice. I told David about the DAP campaign and said I was not prepared to take on Northern Ireland myself, but would be prepared to mentor him. I gave him some ideas to get started and he said that he would push himself and hopefully he could start something to help make a change. He felt very strongly that it was time Stormont got a wake-up call.
David contacted Mr Jim Allister, MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly). Mr Allister wrote to the Department of Health on behalf of David and had a reply from Mr Robin Swann, The Minister of Health, which referenced Section 98 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the amendments which had been implemented in England and Wales. He then went on to say that work was ongoing to finalise an Adoption and Children Bill to modernise the legislative framework for adoption in Northern Ireland. He further said that it was his intention to introduce the Bill into the NI Assembly in the current mandate. Mr Allister, explained to David that if this was delivered, as promised, it should happen before Spring 2022, hopefully sooner.
For descendants and other relatives of adopted persons in NI, who want access to birth records, this is good news, but the schedule of events is not specific. Therefore, may I suggest that anyone affected by this Bill, should support and join David in his trail blazing efforts by writing to their own MLAs* telling them how important it is to you personally and urging them to make sure that the Department of Health does not let this change to the Adoption Legislation slip between the cracks, especially as they are currently distracted by Covid and Brexit. Pin them down and make sure that it does not get forgotten.
For further information you can contact David (firstname.lastname@example.org) and join us on the Facebook group for Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons.
Good luck everyone.
Founder & Co-ordinator: Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons Group
*Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) scrutinise the work of Ministers and hold Departments to account.
Having fought myself for the release of the 1939 Register, and also for online access to BMD registers I know only to well how much time and effort Frances and David have had to invest in their campaigns.
My Contact page gets an upgrade NEW
One of the most useful pages at the LostCousins site doesn't appear in the menu – and in a moment I'll explain why. But first of all, here's a screenshot that shows an example from my own LostCousins account (I've hidden the name of my living relative to maintain confidentiality):
There is a My Contact page for each person you've been matched with, and that's why this page doesn’t appear in the website menu – instead you access it by clicking on your contact's name (or initials) on your My Cousins page.
At the top there's a box where you can record Notes; if you've tested your DNA with Ancestry you'll be familiar with their Notes feature, and I use both in a similar way. Then there's a list of all the shared relatives, showing how you and the other member are related to each of those relatives - in this case the other person has entered the Ancestors Numbers for their direct ancestors, so by referring to the Ancestor Chart I can tell where those shared relatives fit in their tree.
If your My Ancestors page is anything like mine, there are hundreds or thousands of entries, and the same names often occur in multiple households and in different generations. To help you identify the individuals listed the census references are given, allowing you to quickly find the relevant household on your My Ancestors page.
Tip: do this using the search in your browser - copy the references using Ctrl-C, go to My Ancestors, click Ctrl-F to open up the search box, then move the mouse to the box and press Ctrl-V to paste the references.
The first entry is from the 1841 Census, the second from the 1881 Census - but there isn't room on the My Contact page to give the name of the census. So over the holiday period I got to work and added the arrows you can see at the beginning of each line - move the mouse pointer over one of those arrows and you'll see a short message; click the arrow and it will search the census (in a similar way to the arrows on your My Ancestors page).
Note: for the US censuses clicking the arrow will take you to the search form for the relevant census; for other censuses it will carry out a search automatically, as it does on your My Ancestors page (where it's primary use is checking that you have entered the correct census references).
Most people are behaving responsibly at this difficult time – but there are some who frankly don’t give a damn. I was shocked to read this week about an illegal New Year's Eve party in a 16th century Grade II* listed church under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. Not only were the organisers and the attendees trespassing, they were in breach of COVID-19 regulations – and they managed to do all sorts of damage to this historic building, which is just 30 miles away from where I live, and only 4 miles from where I went to school.
Not surprisingly, given how generous most people are, a fundraising appeal to pay for repairs quickly surpassed its target, but you can't unspread an infection – and this was just one of three large illegal parties in the area on the same night. Words fail me….
The incidents mentioned happened despite a desperate plea from an intensive care doctor which was published at the BBC News site on New Year's Eve – it makes the warnings in my last newsletter sound pretty tame by comparison, but then he's on the front line, risking his life every day to save others. Sadly events have proven him to be correct.
This evening the UK Prime Minister reiterated that his aim was for everyone in the 4 most vulnerable groups to be vaccinated by the middle of February, though given the limited supply of vaccines and the logistical problems I'd be surprised if that target is met.
I'm in group 4, because I'm over 70 – so could receive my first jab in February. But will receiving the vaccine change the way I behave in the short-term? I suspect not, because until the level of infection in the community reduces drastically the virus will still be a very considerable threat – the latest survey shows that 1 person in 50 in the community currently has the virus, and of those up to half won’t know that they are infected and infectious.
I know that some people reading this will already have had their first shot of vaccine – I'd be interested to know what difference, if any, it has made to your behaviour?
I don’t think any regular reader of this newsletter was surprised to hear this week's announcements of new lockdowns in the UK. One member has suggested that the advice I've been offering has saved lives: that's something we can never know, I just hope it has made it a little easier for readers to make difficult decisions.
Whilst the National Health Service hasn't yet reached the parlous state of the hospitals in Los Angeles, where ambulance crews have been told not to transport patients with little chance of survival (according to the New York Post and other media sources), the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has exceeded anything seen in the first wave. Thankfully we still have the Nightingale Hospitals in reserve.
I don't need to tell you that researching our family history from home is not only safer for our physical health, it's also a boon for our mental well-being – so I'm going to extend the offer which was due to expire tomorrow (6th January) until Monday 18th January. This will allow all members to initiate online contact with new cousins at a time when we are deprived of physical contact.
Tip: so long as you initiate contact before the end of the offer period it won't matter if your new cousin doesn’t reply until after the offer has ended. When you click the Search button on your My Ancestors page any new contacts you find will be listed near the top of your My Cousins page – simply click the Make Contact button to start the process (you don't need to write a message – that's done automatically).
If you're a LostCousins subscriber you won't benefit from this directly, but you will most certainly benefit: firstly, because your chances of finding 'lost cousins' will be enhanced, and secondly because on the Subscribers Only page you'll find a special offer code that you can give to any family historian who isn’t already a LostCousins member.
Tip: whether you’re a subscriber or not, remember that you can use the Refer a Friend and Refer a Relative options on your My Referrals page to invite others to join. It's particularly advantageous for relatives, because you can get them off to flying start by sending them a copy of the relatives on your My Ancestors page that they share.
I've got a fantastic addition to the range of prizes on offer in my New Year Competition – LostCousins member Alex Halliday is a professional portrait artist who draws wonderfully life-like pencil sketches from photographs (see the example on the right), and she has donated an A5 size sketch as a competition prize.
If you have a treasured photo of your ancestor that you would like to revamp, Alex will produce a carefully drawn A5 pencil portrait especially for you (this service would normally cost £60). See Alex's website for more details of the services she offers – for example, if you win you might choose to upgrade your portrait with a frame hand-crafted by her husband Michael in his workshop.
If I won this prize I'd struggle to decide which of my ancestors to choose – however, after much deliberation I'd probably go for John Bright, my great-grandfather. But who would you choose if you won?
Remember, every direct ancestor and blood relative you enter between 10th December and 31st January will count as an entry in the competition, and relatives from the 1881 Census will count double. Everyone has a chance to win one of the fantastic prizes on offer – even if you only enter one relative – but the more relatives you're able to add, the greater your chances of winning.
Please note that if you are researching on behalf of someone else, whether it's your spouse, another relative, or a friend – you can claim the prize yourself provided the account is registered under your email address when the prizewinners are announced (see this recent article for more information). Of course, you can also pass the prize on if you prefer – it’s entirely up to you.
Finally a reminder of the other wonderful prizes that you can win in this year's competition:
12 month PRO subscription to Findmypast (worth £159.99)
Virtually unlimited access to over 8 billion historical records from around the world, modern electoral registers for the UK, and more than 300 million newspaper articles
12 month Diamond subscription to The Genealogist (worth £139.95)
Unlimited access to a wide range of records including non-conformist records, exclusive tithe records and tithe maps, and a growing collection of 'Lloyd George' Domesday records and maps which you won't find at any other site.
12 month unlimited subscription to British Newspaper Archive (worth £79.95)
Over 40 million pages from historic British and Irish newspapers, with hundreds of thousands more pages added every month. Optimised search features including the ability to search for articles added after a particular date, so that you don't have to repeatedly trawl through articles you've previously read or discarded.
12 month subscription to Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine (worth at least £60)
A wealth of news, knowledge, and information from the world of genealogy – plus some inside stories from the TV series.
Family Historian v7 (just out!)
Simon Orde, the programmer of this Great British program has generously offered to donate a digital copy to the lucky winner. But you don’t have to wait for the result of the competition to find out what amazing features the program offers – you can download a free trial version here.
Three autographed copies of The Asylum-Hiding the Past
Nathan Dylan Goodwin will dedicate these copies to the three lucky winners – two great stories in a single paperback, Hiding the Past introduced us to Morton Farrier, The Asylum is a prequel to that first novel.
Autographed copies of The Marriage Certificate and The Death Certificate
Stephen Molyneux will sign copies of the paperbacks for the lucky winner. His debut genealogical mystery novel, The Marriage Certificate, is one of my all-time favourites, and The Death Certificate is a worthy follow-up.
Autographed copies of Ten Steps to a One-Place Study and Sins as Red as Scarlet: a Devon Town in Turmoil
Author Janet Tew will autograph copies of these popular books for the winner.
We've never had such a wonderful range of prizes before – I'm really grateful to all those who have donated prizes.
The most important page at the LostCousins is the My Ancestors page. But don't be fooled by the name – it's not just for direct ancestors, and here's why……
If you're my age or older the chances are that some or all of your grandparents were born before 1881. Naturally you'll enter them if they were on the census, but what's the chance of those entries leading to 'lost cousins'? Pretty small as it happens, because anyone descended from your grandparents is a 1st cousin of yours, and you probably know all of your 1st cousins already.
What about your great-grandparents? Their descendants are your 2nd cousins – so you'll probably know some of them, but not others. However they're not all going to be family historians like you, and the chances are that the ones who are researching their ancestry have already been in touch. So not much chance of finding 'lost cousins' there, either.
Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't enter your direct ancestors – of course you should. But they're just a stepping stone on the journey – not the final destination. The key relatives to enter are the ancestors of your 'lost cousins' – which means entering the relatives from the branches of your tree, because ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches.
If I look at my own My Ancestors page there are 25 'direct ancestors' who I've been able to enter from the 1881 Census (several of them died shortly after the census, so I'm possibly a little luckier than most). But of course, it’s not the number of my ancestors that determines how many new cousins I'm going to find, it's how many of their ancestors that I've entered – and the best guide to that is the number of 'blood relatives' that I've found in 1881 and entered. That figure is much higher, at 692, and whilst some of them won’t have any living descendants, any one of them could potentially provide a connection to a 'lost cousin'.
The important thing to remember is that even if all of my 'direct ancestors' had emigrated before the census, most of those 'blood relatives' would have stayed in Britain, and they and/or their descendants would have been recorded on the 1881 Census. In other words, it’s not where your ancestors were in 1881 that matters, but where their cousins were.
So remember, the page might be called My Ancestors, but it’s really a page where you enter your cousins' ancestors – or your ancestors' cousins (it’s the same thing, of course).
Tip: a good strategy is to start with everyone you know about in 1841 (whether or not you've found them on that census), then track each branch and twig through to 1881, making use of the ten-yearly censuses and the new GRO birth indexes which show the mother's maiden name from 1837.
The average size of a private household in the 1881 Census is between 4 and 5 inhabitants, and as there are 25 lines on a page, there are 6 households on typical census page.
Peckham Park Road in Camberwell must once have had larger than average houses – they've all been replaced with modern blocks of flats – but the family at No.74 in 1881 was impressively large, as you can see from this scan:
© Crown Copyright Image courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. Reproduced with the permission of Findmypast
I've come across larger households – some with 20 or more servants – but what makes this entry special is that all 19 of them are related, and they appear to be living as one multi-generational household.
According to Emily, the LostCousins member who brought it to my attention, the family comprises William Cumber and his wife Elizabeth, their four adult children William, Alfred, Elizabeth and Emily and their respective spouses and children, plus William’s sister-in-law Matilda.
What also stood out for me is the order in which the members of the extended family are listed – it’s more common to see households grouped into families.
Have you ever come across an example of a larger family living as one household? If so, please don’t write to me, instead post details on the LostCousins Forum.
Note: almost everyone reading this can join the forum in theory – but if you've been particularly slow to complete your My Ancestors page you might in practice need to spend half an hour adding more relatives from the 1881 Census in order to qualify. When you do qualify you'll find a link and coupon code on your My Summary page.
If you haven't already bought Hiding the Past and live in the UK you've got one last chance to pick it up the Kindle version for the bargain price of 99p – the offer ends on 6th January. Please follow this link to support LostCousins when you buy this or any other item from Amazon.co.uk
If you’re staying at home you don’t need a mobile phone, do you? Well, actually there are a couple of very good reasons why it makes sense to have a mobile phone. One is that making calls on a mobile is usually considerably cheaper than making calls on a landline - I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's the reason why I gave up making calls on my landline years ago.
The other reason to have a mobile is to provide a backup in the event that your landline goes down, you have a power cut, or you're in a part of your house or garden where the WiFi signal doesn't reach. And whilst it's not necessarily going to save you money, it might save your life.
For £6 a month I can cover both options: I can make unlimited phone calls within the UK and send unlimited text messages, plus I have 500mb of data if I need it in an emergency. If you want to know more, follow this link to the GiffGaff site – you'll get a £5 credit when you activate your SIM (and I might benefit too). And by the way, there is no commitment – it's a month by month deal.
Before Christmas I mentioned that I'd made my own crystallised peel, and though it was too late for the Christmas cakes and puddings that I made, it was ideal for my homemade fat-free mincemeat. I used this recipe but substituted apple juice for cider, and dried apple for fresh – it was absolutely fabulous!
But the problem with mince pies is that most of the calories are in the pastry - for example, a single Tesco Finest mince pie works out at 250 calories. I solved that problem by using filo pastry – which I'd never used before, but it turned out to be incredibly easy to work with compared to puff pastry. There were only 770 calories in the pack and I made 35 mince tarts and parcels, so it was a brilliant solution for those of us who love mince pies but have to watch our waistlines. Most of us, I suspect.
This month I'm going back to a recipe I got many years ago from a good friend in the US, now sadly suffering from dementia. If it works out well I'll provide details in a future newsletter.
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......
All the best for 2021 – it can't be as bad as 2020, surely?
© Copyright 2021 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? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.