Newsletter - 10th July 2019
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 28th June) 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):
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On 1st July ThruLines permanently replaced DNA Circles, having been optional while it was in beta test. Although it's a feature that's only available to those who tested their DNA with Ancestry, it's important to realise that ThruLines suggestions for 'potential ancestors' are based on family trees - Ancestry aren't using DNA to prove the connection.
In other words they're hints - some will be more useful than others, but even when the hint is wrong good things can come out of it, as the next article demonstrates.
When I looked at ThruLines last Wednesday morning I noticed that there two potential ancestors I hadn't seen before: Stephen Berry and his wife Mary.
I was particularly intrigued because the surname Berry hadn't come up at all during my researches, and whilst this could mean it was a 'red herring', I've learned over the years that clues can come from the most surprising sources.
When I took a look at the tree on which this suggestion was based I realised that the tree owner had inadvertently combined two families into one - yes, the daughter Mary had married an Edward Smith, which fitted, but my great-great-great grandmother's maiden name was Rowse, not Berry. Smith is a very common surname, and all this took place in London, which at the time was the most populous city in the Western world, so it was understandable that a mistake might have been made.
Nevertheless, rather than dismissing the information out of hand I decided to make sure that I hadn't missed any children, by checking for Smith births with mother's maiden name Rowse in the GRO birth index. When the GRO's indexes went online a couple of years ago I used them primarily to help knock down 'brick walls', or to find missing children revealed by the 1911 'fertility census' - I didnít methodically go through every family in my tree, mainly because I was hoping the GRO would update their search to make it less 'clunky' (which sadly hasnít happened yet).
Fortunately Findmypast took up the baton that the GRO dropped - most entries in their birth index now include the mother's maiden name, even for the period from 1837-1911 when it wasn't shown in the original GRO quarterly indexes. Note that you donít need a subscription to search at Findmypast - it's only when you try to look at the record that the drawbridge goes up, and often the search results will tell you all you need to know (use this link to check it out yourself - note that you might have to log-in).
These are the results I got when I searched for births between 1837-1847:
Clara, Eleanor, Emma, and Maria are all in my tree, but the two Alexanders and Christiana aren't. Even though the births are in the same part of London I could tell from the dates that they must have a different mother, so I wondered whether it might be a case of two brothers marrying two sisters. This would be very good news, because Mary Ann Rowse had been a 'brick wall' for about 15 years, and any clue would be worth having.
Before continuing I'm going to tell you what I knew about Mary Ann: when she married Edward Smith in 1824 at St Mary, Whitechapel the witnesses were William Rowse, and another Rowse whose name began with E - my best guess was Ebenezer, but the writing was so bad it really was just a guess. Because it was 13 years before civil registration was introduced in England & Wales there was no indication of her father's name - he might have been one of the witnesses, but then again, he might not.
The 1851 Census showed her age as 43, and her birthplace as Soho, Middlesex; when she died in 1855 she was just 47 years old, tallying with the age shown in the census, and implying that she was born in 1807 or 1808 (making her a young bride when she married in 1824 - she would have needed the permission of her parent or guardian). Soho is in Westminster, so when Findmypast added the Westminster parish registers a few years back I had a good look for Mary Ann - and found a Mary Ann who was baptised to John & Mary Rouse at St Margaret's Westminster. Not the right parish or the same spelling of the surname, and no sign of a William or Ebenezer, but it was certainly worth including a note in my tree - just in case some other corroborating evidence came to light.
Anyway, back to last Wednesday morning - my first objective was to find the marriage of the other Smith & Rowse couple, and hope that it was after July 1837 (which seemed quite likely as there were apparently no children born before 1843). In the event I found it in 1838:
© Reproduced by kind permission of the London Metropolitan Archives and Ancestry
There two key pieces of information that stood out: the bride's father's name was William Rowse, which tied in neatly with first witness to the marriage of Edward Smith and Mary Ann Rowse; secondly, the bride's name was Rebecca, which happened to be the name of my great-great-great grandmother (daughter of Edward & Mary Ann).
At this point I was quite encouraged - the only fly in the ointment was the possibility that the William Rowse named as the bride's father was also the W S Rowse who had signed as a witness, because the signature looked nothing the one from the 1824 marriage of my great-great-great grandparents (see below):
© Reproduced by kind permission of the London Metropolitan Archives and Ancestry
At Findmypast I'd found a Mary Ann baptised to a William and Rebecca Ann Rowse in Stepney in 1811, but with a birth year of 1808 recorded - otherwise she'd have been very unlikely to marry in 1824! There was no image - it was a transcript sourced from FamilySearch. Perhaps this was the right family at last - but if so, was the Soho birthplace simply wrong? And why hadn't I found this baptism in the London Metropolitan Archives collection?
Now that I was increasingly confident that my Mary Ann was the daughter of William & Rebecca I decided to go back to the London Metropolitan Archives collection at Ancestry for another look. I found the baptism of Rebecca at St Mary, Whitechapel in 1814, which fitted in with an 1838 marriage - and eventually spotted the baptism I'd been looking for all these years. My ancestor was recorded as 'Many Ann Rowse'!
But I wanted more proof. Who was W S Rowse, the witness at Rebecca's wedding; who was Ebenezer (??) Rowse, the second witness to Mary Ann's marriage? Was I in danger of making the same mistake as the Ancestry tree-owner who had set me off on this quest, by merging two separate families into one?
I realised that the the best way to prove the connection was to find signatures that matched, so I resolved to find as many marriages as possible. The first step was to identify all the children of William and Rebecca Ann - there were 6 in all, 5 of them daughters (no wonder William was happy for Mary Ann to marry at such a young age!). And as they all married, including the son - William Samuel - who was clearly the W S Rowse who witnessed the marriage of Alexander Smith to Rebecca Rowse, I had plenty of evidence to confirm my findings.
Ebenezer, by the way, was actually Eleanor; Alexander Smith isn't, so far as I can tell, related to Edward Smith; and Mary Berry certainly isnít my ancestor. Nevertheless, thanks to the muddled tree that ThruLines discovered, I was inspired to knock down a 'brick wall' that had blocked my way for 15 years - and all in a morning!
The moral of the tale is that whilst luck certainly plays a part, it's up to us to grab hold of the opportunities that come our way and make the most of them. This is far from the first time that the names and signatures of marriage witnesses have provided me with vital clues, and you wonít be surprised to learn that one of the other occasions also involved my Smith ancestors.
I quite often get emails from people who tell me that this or that surname is so common that they've given up all hope of finding the answer. But itís not usually the magnitude of the problem that stops us succeeding, it's a lack of determination to find the answer - sometimes people are so convinced that they're going to fail that they don't order the certificates or buy the subscriptions that could provide the solution. Watching the tennis on TV last week it wasn't difficult to tell which players had the right mentality to be winners, and which were setting themselves up for failure. Whilst most of you are amateur genealogists, like me, that doesnít mean that we have to fail - I can remember when everyone playing at Wimbledon or competing in the Olympics was an amateur!
Postscript: Finding Mary Ann's parents was just the start - every time we knock down one 'brick wall' there are at least two more behind it! Put it another way, the more experienced and successful you are, the more 'brick walls; you'll have - which is why connecting with cousins, no matter how distant, is crucial to your continued success.
In the mid-19th century graveyards in many British cities were full, prompting the development of new out-of-town cemeteries. Now, it seems, we're running out of space again - prompting one expert to propose burying our loved ones alongside motorways. See this Guardian article for more details and some of the other ideas that are being suggested. But perhaps you have a better suggestion? If so, please let me know.
In Australia construction works on the Sydney Metro uncovered the remains of a 19th century cemetery - you can read about it here.
Over the past decade I've written about a number of major film archives, most of them offering free online viewing, and as there's an article on this topic in the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine I thought this would be a good time to provide an update.
I first wrote about the East Anglian Film Archive in 2012 - there are around 200 hours of footage online, all of it free to view, but this is only a very small fraction of the material in the collection. The earliest footage dates from 1896!
British Pathť is another site I've mentioned many times - and whenever I do, there's always someone who spots an ancestor in one of their newsreels!
I watched the BBC documentaries about the films of Mitchell and Kenyon (there are some short clips from their work here, but you'll need to register). I recorded the programmes when they first aired, over a decade ago, but you can pick up second-hand DVDs of the series at very low prices here.
The British Film Institute National Archive has an immense collection of films or all types - and whilst most are only available on subscription there's still a lot that is free (follow this link).
A site I hadn't discovered before reading Jonathan Scott's article in Who Do You Think You Are? is London's Screen Archives, which hosts nearly 80 collections held by the London Metropolitan Archives, London Transport Museum and many others - you can find out what's available here. When I searched for Ilford, the town where I grew up, I found a wealth of material held by Redbridge Museum and Heritage Centre, all of it free to view, and mostly home movies.
Tip: on this site you can add music to silent movies - it's amazing what a difference it makes.
Another site new to me was the Media Archive for Central England - you'll find it here but I had trouble with the search so wasn't able to check it out properly in the time available. See the magazine for other film archives around the country.
My DNA Masterclass, which provides the optimal strategies for anyone who has tested with Ancestry DNA (but will also help those who have taken an autosomal test with another provider) is frequently mentioned in the newsletter. But where can you find it?
The good news is that there are links to all of my Masterclasses, covering a wide range of topics, from the Subscribers Only page at the LostCousins site. However you donít need to be a subscriber to make use of the Masterclasses - every newsletter has a search box at the top that allows you to search every LostCousins newsletter published in the last 10 years (since February 2009, to be precise).
The results look like a standard Google search, but - apart from the usual adverts at the top - the results are all from the newsletters. This means it's really easy to find articles from past newsletters - far easier than it would be if there was an index.
For example, if you wanted to find the DNA Masterclass you would search for 'dna masterclass'. To find all of the Masterclasses search for 'masterclass'; to find other articles just type in one or two key words, such as 'bigamy', 'GRO', or 'illegitimate births'. There's no need to restrict yourself to topics you remember reading in the newsletter - even I can't remember everything I've written about!
If you'd like to have a better understanding of how DNA is inherited, all you need is a deck of playing cards - we're going to use it to represent your parents' DNA.
Here's what to do: first remove the Aces - you're not going to need them - then separate the remaining cards into two piles, one with the minor suits (clubs and diamonds) and the other with the majors (hearts and spades). Now turn them over so that you can't see them and thoroughly shuffle each pile, keeping them separate.
When youíre satisfied that they're randomly shuffled deal 12 cards from each pile face down; now take the 24 cards you've just dealt and, keeping them face down, shuffle them again. Finally turn the cards over and fan them out so that you can see the suit of each card.
How does this relate to DNA? Well, the clubs and diamonds represent the DNA you inherited from your paternal grandparents, hearts and spades the DNA from your maternal grandparents; the red cards represent the females, and the black cards the males.
In the nest photo I've sorted the cards into suits. When you do this you'll notice that you have the same number of cards from each couple (ie 12), but the chances are that you didn't inherit precisely 6 from each grandparent. This demonstrates that whilst we get 50% of our DNA from each of our parents, and they got 50% of their DNA from each of their parents (and so on), we donít inherit precisely 25% from each grandparent.
If you were to start again and select another 24 cards following the instructions above you'd find that about half of them match the first set, which demonstrates that, on average, full siblings share 50% of their DNA. But don't do it just now, because there's another part of the exercise that you'll need to do first.
Although in this simulation you can identify the DNA that came from each grandparent, you wouldnít be able to do this in real life - at least, not without some help from your cousins. Segments of DNA that you share with one of more maternal cousins must have come from your maternal grandparents, whilst segments that you share with one or more paternal cousins must have come from your paternal grandparents (of course, if your parents were related it's a little more complicated).
Most of the time we donít need to know which segments of our DNA came from which ancestor - what we really want to know is how we are related to the genetic cousins we've been matched with. And to do this you need the help of documented cousins who have also tested, ideally with the same provider. After all, if you and your cousin Jack both have Rosemary on your list of matches, the chances are that Rosemary is connected to you through one of the ancestral lines that you share with Jack.
Of course, just because you and a cousin have common ancestors doesnít mean that you'll share a detectable amount of DNA - it mostly depends how closely related you are. In the playing card example above we looked at inheritance over a single generation - the 48 card deck that we started with represented the DNA of your two parents, whilst the 24 cards you ended with represented your DNA. Halve the number of cards again, and now those 12 cards represent the DNA that you pass to one of your own children (of course, they'll receive a similar amount from their other parent):
The second set of 12 cards are the result of going through the whole process a second time: they represent the child of your sibling. - in other words the two of them are 1st cousins.
Note that there are just 3 cards that appear in both selections. 3 out of 24 is one-eighth or 12.5%, which happens to be the average amount of DNA shared by 1st cousins (as you will see if you go through the process multiple times).
Let's just recap what we've learned: full siblings share 50% of their DNA on average, even though they have identical ancestors; 1st cousins share just 12.5% of their DNA, even though they share half of their ancestors. It doesnít seem right, does it? But it is - and the reason for the discrepancy is that only half of DNA gets passed on from one generation to the next.
In fact, with every generation the amount of DNA we share with our cousins reduces by three-quarters - thus 2nd cousins share, on average, just 3.125% of their DNA and 3rd cousins a mere 0.781%. It's just as well we have more autosomal DNA than there are cards in a deck (around 3 billion base pairs).
In practice all 2nd cousins and almost all 3rd cousins share a detectable amount of DNA, though the chances of a match reduce significantly after that - by the time you get to 6th cousins there's only an 11% chance, and for 8th cousins it's just under 1%. On the other hand, we have so many distant cousins that they'll account for over 99% of all our matches! DNA is full of contradictions - itís no wonder that so many people are confused by it.
There's a table in my DNA Masterclass which shows not only the average amount of DNA shared with cousins of different degree, what the chances are that two cousins will share DNA, and how many cousins we have at each level, but also how many cousins you would expect to find if they all tested with Ancestry. Of course, that's unlikely to happen, but so many tests have been sold that the proportion of our cousins who have already tested could well be 5% or more.
Although ethnicity estimates aren't normally of any practical value, one thing they're good at picking up is Jewish ancestry. Sometimes this is an unexpected discovery - and a common question that people ask is "Does this mean I'm Jewish?".
I have ancestors from Germany and Wallonia, but I still think of myself as English. On the other hand, I get the impression that anyone in the USA who has an Irish ancestor thinks of themselves as Irish - at least when it comes to celebrating St Patrick's Day!
A thought-provoking article in the Guardian last month examined the relationship between Jewish ancestry and Jewish identity - it's well worth reading.
Over the past 6 months I've been indulging in a guilty pleasure - dipping into the pages of Growing Up In London 1930-1960, a wonderful book which was compiled and edited by LostCousins member Peter Cox, who interviewed more than one hundred U3A members aged between 75 and 95 (the interviews were conducted in 2014, so they would have been born between the wars).
On every page there are quotes that remind me of my own childhood, or of the stories I heard from my parents - and whilst all the memories are from Londoners, the vast majority will be just as relevant to those who grew up in different parts of Britain.
Normally I'd simply read a book and review it, but there are some books which deserve to be consumed in small portions, and savoured: Growing Up In London is one of them. So with the permission of the author I'm going to be featuring short excerpts from the book over the coming months - each just a paragraph or two, but every one evoking the spirit of a bygone age (albeit a time that is still within living memory).
The first excerpts come from p.31, where the memories are of bathrooms - or the lack of them. These two comments reminded me of my own childhood - how things have changed!
"Toothpaste is something we take for granted nowadays. What we used then was a powder called Eucryl that felt as if we were brushing our teeth with chalk and sand."
"Our hair was washed over the sink in the scullery using ordinary soap. You had to check that all the soap came out."
I can't remember the brand of the toothpowder I used as a child, but it came in a small flat round tin. It was a lot more economical than modern toothpastes, since you had to work hard to get any on your toothbrush - and for this reason it was probably safer for children.
When I graduated from washing my hair with soap it wasn't to shampoo, but washing-up liquid. That couldnít have happened previously because we didnít have washing-up liquid in the 1950s - at least, not in our house (we used Daz washing powder to clean the dishes, which seems rather strange now).
L P Hartley wrote at the start of his most famous book, The Go-Between, "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" - and we certainly did, didnít we!
There are thousands of reminiscences in the book - it's a goldmine. Growing Up In London was published in hardback at £20, and even the cheapest used copy on Amazon cost £35 when I checked - but you can purchase it direct from the author for just £10 plus postage if you follow this link to his website and mention that you are a LostCousins member (Peter Cox will also sign and dedicate the book on request). If youíre outside the UK and ordering a copy as a gift place your order well in advance so that the book can be sent by surface mail, which is a lot cheaper (especially if you are buying more than one copy).
Thankfully I've never had to work in a factory, although I'm sure most modern British factories are a long way removed from the 'dark satanic mills' that William Blake wrote about in the early 19th century.
Although fossil fuels have been in the ground for millions of years, it was only in the mid-19th century that the advantages of crude oil were recognised. So how were the wheels of industry oiled before then?
I found an article from the MRS Bulletin which has all the answers - you'll find it here (it's in PDF format).
If you look through your family tree you'll probably notice that until the second half of the 19th century your ancestors tended to be named after other family members - usually parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts. Some may be named for godparents, but most parish registers don't record who the godparents were (Catholic registers are the main exception).
Then parents started to be more creative - this may have been forced upon them by the reduction in infant mortality, which meant that many families had 10 or more children who survived, but I suspect that many were also influenced by what they read, and later by the films that they saw.
Fashions come and go, so you can often tell how old somebody is just by knowing their name. A recent BBC article draws on an analysis of baby names in England & Wales from 1996-2017 - you'll find it here.
Probate genealogist (or heir-hunter) Anna Ames is one of my favourite literary characters, so when her creator, the author Geraldine Wall, sent me a draft of her latest novel a couple of months ago I was absolutely delighted.
What I love about the series is the interaction between Anna's work and her personal life. I've watched her children grow up and her daughter leave home, I've sympathised as she cared for her husband (who had early onset dementia), I've shuddered as things have gone wrong, and cheered when they've gone right.
In the early books of the series she found her mother, but couldnít bring herself to like or understand her during the brief period they were together. In this latest book she finds herself researching into her mother's background, and searching for her maternal cousins: the discoveries she makes help Anna to appreciate the pressures her mother was under, and comprehend why it was she abandoned her young daughter.
All this is against the background of her day job - it's just like real life, in other words!
Will this be the last book in the series? I hope not - I'd hate to think that I would never meet these wonderful characters again. Currently it's only available in Kindle format, but previous instalments also came out in paperback format, so I suspect this one will too.
If, like me, you've been following Anna Ames you won't need my encouragement to buy this book. If you haven't, I recommend you start with the first book in the series and read them in sequence - believe me, once you've read the first one you won't want to stop!
The links below will take you a page that lists all of the books in the series - the first is File Under Family. Using the appropriate link will enable you to support LostCousins - even if you end up buying something completely different. (Unfortunately Amazon don't allow you to support LostCousins when you buy from their Australian site - it doesnít have an affiliate scheme at the current time.)
Rather than writing a history of women's suffrage from a Scottish perspective, Carole O'Connor has taken a refreshingly different approach. The author devotes a chapter to each of the major cities and regions of Scotland: she begins with a short history and description from a range of perspectives (work, education etc), then follows up with pen pictures of the key figures who played a part in women's suffrage.
Some of the people she writes about were anti-suffrage, such as the Marchioness of Tullibardine (later Duchess of Atholl), who despite her views became the first woman in Scotland to be elected to Parliament. (She also had a steam engine named after her.)
The book also features women who, though not actively involved in the suffrage movement, nevertheless contributed to its progress - and some men who supported the cause, including Keir Hardie.
You donít need to have a keen interest in women's suffrage in order to benefit from this book - I suspect that many researchers with Scottish ancestry will find it useful. It's available now in the UK, either as a paperback or in Kindle format, but wonít be released in North America until the fall. The published price is £12.99, but when I checked there were new copies available through Amazon Marketplace for under £10 (including postage), and the Kindle version is under £5.
You've almost certainly seen books by David Gerald Hessayon - in fact you probably own at least one of them. And yet few people would recognise the name of this author whose books have sold over 50 million copies (and no, he doesnít use a nom de plume).
Give up? Here's a link to his most famous book......
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© Copyright 2019 Peter Calver
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