Newsletter - 5th July 2018



Amazing offer for first-time Findmypast subscribers SAVE 30%

Get a free LostCousins subscription offer free access THIS WEEKEND ONLY

A most unusual marriage

GRO confirm extension of PDF pilot

Working on the 1939 Register

DNA giants slug it out

Guest article: DNA really CAN help your research

What's in a name?

Review: The Secret Barrister

What am I reading?

Survivors of the Battle of Waterloo

You only live twice

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 30th June) 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):



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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!



Amazing offer for first-time Findmypast subscribers SAVE 30%

If you've never been a Findmypast subscriber you can save an amazing 30% on a 12 month Pro subscription at their UK site, a 12 month Ultimate British & Irish subscription at their US site, or a 12 month World subscription at their Australian and Irish sites. (Despite the differing names, all of those subscriptions provide the same unlimited access to ALL of Findmypast's billions of historical records and newspaper articles.)


It's almost unheard of for Findmypast to offer a bigger discount to new subscribers than the 15% Loyalty Discount they offer to existing subscribers - I can only assume that the distractions caused by the unusually hot weather in the UK, combined with Wimbledon and the World Cup, have left them no choice!


Although this promotion isn't exclusive to LostCousins you'll only be supporting LostCousins when you use the links I've provided below (please also ensure that in your browser's Privacy Settings the option to "Send a 'Do Not Track' request with your browsing traffic" is turned OFF (which is the default setting in all the browsers I've checked). - SAVE 30% on a 12 month Pro subscription - SAVE 30% on a 12 month Ultimate British & Irish subscription - SAVE 30% on a 12 month World subscription - SAVE 30% on a 12 month World subscription


If you've previously been a Findmypast subscriber you won't be able to take advantage of the fantastic 30% discount (though if it's a very, very long time since you subscribed it might be worth trying anyway), but there are also offers to tempt returning subscribers: - SAVE 10% on a 12 month Pro subscription - SAVE 50% on a 1 month Ultimate British & Irish subscription - SAVE 10% on a 12 month World subscription - SAVE 10% on a 12 month World subscription


But before buying a Findmypast subscription check out the next article……



Get a free LostCousins subscription

LostCousins can only benefit when you use a link that I've provided and your purchase is tracked as coming from the LostCousins site. So I'm once again offering a free subscription to members who go out of their way to purchase a 12 month Findmypast subscription using the links above and ensure that your purchase is tracked - this means that the total savings you make can be nearly £50 (if you qualify for a 30% discount, or £28 if you don't). But please read the terms and conditions below so that you don't miss out - and check with me before making your purchase if you're not sure whether your settings are correct.


To claim your LostCousins subscription (which will run from the date of purchase of your Findmypast subscription, unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case it will be extended), please forward to me the email receipt that you receive from Findmypast. Screenshots are NOT sufficient - I need to know the precise time of your purchase (so write it down, in case the emailed receipt doesn't arrive). You can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from when telling you about this newsletter.


Terms & conditions: your free LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if for any reason we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify, so it's up to you to make sure that doesn't happen. For example, if you use an adblocker the link may not work; if you have disabled tracking in your browser or Internet Security software the link will appear to work, but Findmypast will ignore it, so won't pay us any commission (this is the most common problem - if you’re not sure ask for my advice before making your purchase, afterwards is too late!). Commission isn't paid on renewals, and may not be paid on upgrades. offer free access THIS WEEKEND ONLY

This weekend (from Friday 6th to Monday 9th July) you can access Ancestry's UK and Ireland records free at (but not at other Ancestry sites around the world). If you follow this link you can see a list of all the record sets that are included in the offer.


Tip: make sure that you save records to your own computer rather than simply attaching them to your tree - otherwise you won't be able to view them after the weekend.



A most unusual marriage

Jane spotted this marriage entry in the register for St Leonard, Shoreditch - it's a parish where several of my ancestors married, but not under these circumstances….


All rights reserved. Used by kind permission of Ancestry and the London Metropolitan Archives


This is not an error - Ann Winfield, the bride, really was 47 years older than Henry Thomas Pym, the groom (that's almost twice the age difference between Emmanuel Macron and his wife). The note at the bottom reads "Every means which could be lawfully used were had recourse to in the endeavour to stop this marriage" - it’s signed by Frederic Cox, the curate who performed the wedding ceremony, but clearly didn't approve of it.


In so-called 'May-December' marriages it’s usually a case of a rich man marrying a younger woman, but I did find one modern equivalent of note - the 2004 marriage of Oscar-winning actress Celeste Holm to Frank Basile, an operatic baritone more than 45 years her junior (you can read a Vanity Fair article about the couple here - it was published after Celeste Holm's death at the age of 95 in 2012). You may remember Celeste Holm from High Society and All About Eve - she wasn't the leading lady in either, of course, but she sang Who Wants to be a Millionaire opposite another Frank (Sinatra), and half a century later she found herself locked in a legal battle with her own sons (from any earlier marriage), fighting to get hold of her own millions.



GRO confirm extension of PDF pilot

As predicted in the last issue the GRO have once again extended the pilot, this time with no fixed end date:


"Further to our previous correspondence, when we advised of the launch of the Extended PDF Pilot, please note that this service, which had been extended to July 2018, has now been extended further to continue to assess longer term demand. There is no planned end date for the pilot at this time; further communications on the future of the PDF service will be provided in due course."



Working on the 1939 Register

In 1939 the Government requisitioned the Smedley Hydro Hotel in Southport to use as a centre for National Registration - and Ancestry have a wonderful 1940 photo of female clerks working on the registers in the former ballroom of the hotel (you can see it here). At the time the location was top secret - the caption refers to "A famous hotel, somewhere in the North of England'" - just one well-aimed incendiary bomb could have devastated the War Effort.


Note: if you don’t have an Ancestry subscription, and have missed out on the free weekend, you can see a similar but less detailed photo here.


In 1991 the General Register Office relocated from London to Southport, and has been there ever since. In 1846 the future Napoleon III lived for a time in lodgings off Lord Street, Southport, and some claim that he was so impressed by Lord Street that, when Paris was reconstructed between 1854-70, Southport was the inspiration for the tree-lined boulevards for which the city is rightly famous.



DNA giants slug it out

You may recall me mentioning recently that Ancestry are being sued by breach of patent by 23andMe. Ancestry have now issued their riposte, which is to allege that the patent detailing a way of comparing two sets of DNA to find common ancestors covers natural phenomena that aren't eligible for patent protection. I doubt anything will be decided in the near future - cases like these can drag on for years.



Guest article: DNA really CAN help your research

I get a lot of emails from members who have tested their DNA and been amazed by the results - but Chris described her experience in such great detail that I asked her to turn it into an article so that others who are still undecided could better appreciate what they're missing! Allow me to hand you over to Chris…..


I was initially sceptical as to how far DNA testing could advance my already pretty large tree, but I have to admit to being a complete convert after my experience with Ancestry, where I have a private online tree (I'd had little luck with FTDNA).


After spending over 20 years rigorously searching for ancestors, my first job was to extend the branches of my tree into the 20th century, locating their descendants, to give me the best chance of recognising my new cousins’ surnames. With the aid of my Findmypast and Ancestry subscriptions countless new names were added (along with hundreds more entries for my My Ancestors page at Lost Cousins!).


Immediately 2 previously unknown 3rd cousins appeared, along with over 180 4th cousins, and many more distant cousins, and for some matches Ancestry was able to automatically document our relationship and common ancestors – a superb starting point.


A quick check revealed that I agreed with my 3rd cousin’s research and I was able to put her mother in touch with a relative in a family with whom she had lost touch on moving to New Zealand over 50 years ago, as well as advancing my own tree. My first proven hit, so any matches in common with this cousin would probably come from my paternal grandmother’s line, which narrowed things down.


The other 3rd cousin had no online tree, but an exchange of possible surnames of all 2x great grandparents (and 3x, just in case) resulted in a positive match on my maternal grandfather’s side at 3rd cousin level, as Ancestry predicted. Once again, quick success.


Not sure what to try next, I searched for my paternal grandmother’s surname – a family of mariners who as a result of greater than average mobility in the 18th and 19th centuries have been difficult to trace and whilst I thought I probably had the right ancestors, I couldn’t be certain. Bingo! I identified a distant cousin who had done considerable research and had an online tree. A 4th cousin once removed relationship appeared and a quick exchange of information brought confirmation of my ancestry. My great-great grandfather had died before his son was born – possibly a death at sea, though not recorded in GRO Deaths at sea…. or perhaps he just left his wife and she presumed him dead? Either way, he never appeared on a census with his family, but a DNA match with my great-great grandfather’s sister’s descendant seemed to confirm my research and provided hitherto unknown information regarding the two youngest siblings, whilst my newfound cousin who was previously unaware of the existence of the other 7 siblings (as the relevant parish records are not available online), found a whole new family. Mutual success!


Inspired by this revelation, I searched for another unusual surname I have researched at length – 7 hits, 4 with correspondents with whom I have had lengthy exchanges in the past. How lovely to renew contact and to confirm that our research stands up to the test of DNA! Of the new contacts, though one has failed to reply I recognised the descendant surnames of the others and quickly established who our common ancestors were, furthering their trees by several generations and adding to mine, placing descendants on several different continents.


Next, I felt that a perusal of the matches in common with the previously identified new 3rd cousins might be worthwhile, since I knew which quarter of my tree they would belong to, thus making life easier (my grandparents came from 4 very distinct areas of England, so it is unlikely that any intermarriage occurred between the branches). The results were very satisfying, tidying up a number of loose ends on my tree.


While this was going on Ancestry had a special offer, and soon another two possible 3rd cousins appeared, though neither had an online tree. One shared DNA with several known matches from my maternal grandmother’s line in Devon, which allowed me to narrow down the link to William Williams, my great grandmother’s brother whom my family informed me had emigrated to America, though with such a common name, I would probably never have managed to locate him. My new cousin offered William’s wife’s unusual name, who happened to be listed as a 16 year old servant at the Williams household in Cornwall in 1911, though the census transcription had been incorrect and the handwriting difficult to decipher……...


She also told me that William had eloped with the servant girl, but whilst they married and had a child his mother had the marriage annulled - so William emigrated to America where he eventually saved enough money to send for his wife and child to join him. Information from both sides of the Atlantic suddenly fitted together perfectly, but without DNA evidence, my family tree in the UK and the family tree in the US would never have been linked together as searching for ‘William Williams b England’ in a country the size of America is an impossible task, exacerbated by the fact that he became progressively younger with each successive census!


With the other 3rd cousin, yet again, sending surnames of my great-great grandparents brought instant results – the researcher immediately recognised an uncommon surname and again a common ancestor was quickly established. This line caused me much consternation for years until a chance meeting by my elderly aunt located the family bible, which confirms that the family not only travelled extensively in the UK, but failed to baptise any of their children in the 19th century, so it was rewarding to find a DNA match and more new cousins and be able to provide a family history which is not available in public records.


In the light of this newly established connection, I decided to research further into 6 known matches in common with the 3rd cousin, since I knew they SHOULD all be associated with my maternal grandfather’s line (barring any coincidences), which cut the possible common ancestors by three-quarters. Three of them had no online trees and no names stood out on the other trees, so I picked a distinctive name born in 1913 and began my own research. Some hours later, my ancestor’s sister’s name popped up with the right year and place of birth and a move from a village to a nearby big city in keeping with my research. Armed with the newfound link, I checked out two more of the shared matches and was able to link them to the same common ancestors. However, for every instance in which this technique works, there will be many that don’t and I have found it far easier to trace other peoples’ trees in England and Wales where parish records may be available and censuses give the town or city of birth, but far more difficult in the US where only state or country of birth is given (though death records often give the full names of parents and sometimes place of birth, which is extremely useful).


Armed with the known common ancestors of several 3rd cousins and DNA results from 2 of my 2nd cousins, I have been in a position to follow up a number of matches in common, knowing which quarter of my family tree they should belong to. Not all have borne fruit, as some people haven’t replied to my messages, whilst some (mainly with US ancestry) appear to have no possible common ancestors with me within the given parameters as the ancestors are all located in the US dating back to the 1600s with no gaps, just as my ancestors to date are firmly rooted in England….but nevertheless, there have been very many successful outcomes.


Having dealt with all the 3rd cousins associated with my DNA and my sister’s, I am now ready to move on to looking at 4th cousins’ DNA in more detail, in the hope that I will find at least one match associated with my paternal grandfather’s line in Yorkshire, where to date I have no hits.


The aim on my maternal grandfather’s line was to try and break down a longstanding brickwall regarding Harriet HERITAGE, my great-great grandmother who died before the first census in 1840……no luck as yet, but who knows what the future holds? I think she may have had a brother who emigrated to Australia, so perhaps one of his descendants will test one day? Who knows?


This shows a very small fraction of what can be done with DNA results and how researchers can help one another in the knowledge that there IS likely to be a valid genetic connection, especially where the degree of Ancestry confidence is high, and once a connection is established, the relevant census details for the new relations can be added to Lost Cousins.


However, I am amazed at the difference in the numbers of 4th cousins and closer between different tests – I have 180, my sister has 221 whilst my second cousins only have 135 and 75 respectively. I would have certainly expected the number of matches for my sister and I especially to be closer and expected my cousins to have more matches.


To date I have identified common ancestors for 4 new third cousins, 15 4th cousins and 12 distant cousins, though at least 6 of the fourth and distant cousins have been known to me for many years. And the success continues – another day, another positive reply this morning……..but there are quite a few people who haven’t replied at all, possibly only interested in their so-called ‘ethnicity’.


Chris finished her covering email to me with by commenting: "However, the new contacts aren’t just falling in my lap – I have only had a handful of people contact me. As the newsletter says, you have to be proactive if you are to be rewarded and it helps, of course, having done the basic research on my direct ancestors and their immediate families myself via the local record offices and taken the trouble to extend the tree into the 20th century. And for those of us of a certain age, research also helps to keep the brain cells functioning and alert! Also family history is a marvellous antidote to a perpetual diet of football on TV!"


Tip: if you've tested with Ancestry and want to be as successful as Chris, make sure you follow the strategies in my Masterclass - you'll find it here.



What's in a name?

An article by restaurant critic Matthew Norman in this month's issue of The Oldie told the story of the Papaya Salad he ordered which contained no papaya - quite an omission! This story reminded me of the Chicken & Ham Carbonara I once ordered which contained no ham - though, to be fair, they did at least remember the chicken (but like most Carbonaras outside Italy the sauce was cream-based).


Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with family history… well, I'd argue that it's very relevant, because names are our bread and butter (to continue the culinary metaphor). If the wrong name is recorded in a parish register, or in a BMD register, it can confuse matters as surely as if the ingredients for a recipe listed salt rather then sugar.


Coincidentally, in the same issue, the magazine's publisher mentions a restaurant in Deal, Kent called 'The Black Douglas Coffee House', and describes it as owned by a descendant of Lord Alfred Douglas (or, as Oscar Wilde called him, Bosie). This is unlikely to be true - Lord Alfred's only son never married, and even the restaurant's own website doesn't make this claim. In other words, it’s probably a misunderstanding - the sort of misunderstanding that if left uncorrected can propagate and confuse future generations.


Another misunderstanding I spotted recently was on Ancestry's blog, where there's an article entitled "What does your surname say about you?" (you'll find it here), which talks about the different types of surname , and comments that writer Jack London might have had an ancestor from London - which is quite possibly true, but since he took his surname from his stepfather it's clearly not quite what the author of the article had in mind.


Yet another name-related story comes from Sweden, where a mother didn’t panic when the tattooist misspelled her son's name - rather than have the tattoo painfully removed she legally changed the name of the 5 year-old from Kevin to Kelvin! Which reminds me that when I was in the software industry I published software written by a programmer called Kelvin, but my US distributor kept calling him Kevin - so it’s arguable that the lady in Sweden has simply redressed the balance.


Last month a letter to New Scientist pointed out "you can guess the approximate age of many people from their name", a fact that credit rating agencies use to their advantage. And in May an article in the same magazine reported research carried out at Syracuse University in New York, which found that your first name determines the way that other people perceive you.



Review: The Secret Barrister

It's not often that I read a non-fiction book that I find difficult to put down but The Secret Barrister is one of those rare exceptions. Indeed, I'd love to meet the author of this fascinating book, but  that's unlikely to happen - like Banksy his (or her) identity is hidden, which is understandable given the forthrightness of the writing.


The full title is The Secret Barrister - Stories of the Law and How It's Broken and it begins with a brief description of how the English legal system evolved from the Middle Ages onwards, one that I found both interesting and enlightening. Although prisons were first built in the 12th century, they were mainly used to hold debtors and prisoners awaiting trial - not as a form of punishment, for there were many far crueller alternatives available, many of which ended in the death of the alleged culprit. It seems that it was only in the 19th century, with the ending of transportation, that prison became the most common form of punishment.


Most family historians will have come across records of Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions, and Assizes without necessarily being able to relate them to the modern court system, and the succinct description of how they were worked until they were replaced (within my lifetime) by Magistrates Courts and Crown Courts helped me to put things into perspective. But what this book is really about is how the modern legal system so often fails to deliver justice - though before you condemn the book as the outpourings of a defence lawyer who believes that everyone is innocent, I should perhaps mention that the author also takes cases for the Crown Prosecution Service.


It's impossible to convey in a short review just how comprehensively the author examines the justice system, finding fault at almost every stage, and condemning the cost-cutting which has led to impoverished lawyers earning less than the minimum wage - and which also means that someone charged with a crime they didn't commit could lose their life's savings, or even their house (it happened to somebody I know).


Of course, it’s even worse for those who are found guilty of a crime they didn't commit - they can lose everything, not just their savings and their home, but also their liberty, their career, their friends, their marriage, and their children. Or, in the case of Derek Bentley, their life - it would have been his 85th birthday last Saturday had he not been wrongly hanged in 1953.


Important though the historical context is, this book is mostly about the modern criminal justice system in England & Wales: as a family historian I found it interesting, but as a concerned citizen I found it devastating. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about justice. I'm going to end my review with a comment from another review by Geoffrey Robertson QC (who wrote the article on the history of English law that I referred to in my May article):


"An expert and eloquent account of much that has gone wrong with our criminal law procedures: this book is accurate, informative, and sensibly points the way to pragmatic reforms"                     



What am I reading?

Staying with the law I'm currently reading Ludovic Kennedy's Thirty-six Murders and Two Immoral Earnings, which features miscarriages of justice including the Derek Bentley case, and the earlier case of Timothy Evans. If you want to pick up a second-hand copy at a bargain price ahead of my review (when prices often rise dramatically) please use one of the links below:                     


Next month the new Jefferson Tayte genealogical mystery from Steve Robinson will go on sale - but while you'll have to wait to read it, I've just received a review copy from the author, and it's sitting on my Kindle right now!


It was reading the first book in the series (In the Blood) that got me hooked on genealogical mysteries in the first place, so the release of a new Steve Robinson novel is always a special event as far as I'm concerned. But if you haven't read the earlier books you might be interested to know that Kindle versions of the first 3 books in the series are currently on sale for a paltry 99p each (if you follow the appropriate link below you'll find links to all 7 of the books).


Letters from the Dead will be out on 14th August (it’s published under Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint), and you can be one of the first to get a copy if you pre-order it. Remember that if you use Amazon links that I've provided you'll be supporting LostCousins - even if you end up buying something completely different - but it won’t cost you a penny more.                     



Survivors of the Battle of Waterloo

There are no photographs of the Battle of Waterloo - in 1815 photography hadn't been invented. But there is a photograph that was taken in 1880 at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea which shows some of the last survivors of the battle - you can view it here. Thanks to Myko Clelland of Findmypast for alerting me.



You only live twice

Last month I wrote about the Romanian man who was ruled by a court to be officially dead, even though he was standing in front of them: this week came the news that in South Africa a woman who died in a road accident was found to be alive in a refrigerator in the morgue. And this isn't the first time something like this has happened - see this BBC News article for more details.



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 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?