Newsletter - 10th June 2016
Save on Ancestry DNA tests ENDS 19TH JUNE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 26th May) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
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Whilst the 2021 England & Wales Census will ask respondents to provide their country of birth (just as they were in 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011), as you'll know from my last newsletter, the Office for National Statistics is adamant that they won't be asked to enter their birthplace as they were in 1951 (see the extract below):
The demand from policymakers for more frequent (though less accurate) statistics means that in 5 years' time we may be the last Britons ever to complete a census return - so this could be last opportunity to capture this vital information.
We have enough trouble dealing with ancestors who only appear on the 1841 Census - can you imagine how future generations will manage? And can you also imagine what they'd think about us if we didn't try our damnedest to force the Office for National Statistics to change their minds?
Fortunately, like Sir Tony Robinson's Baldrick, I have a cunning plan - one that I will reveal once the EU referendum is out of the way and politicians are able to focus on something other than Europe.....
I received £40 for acting as an enumerator in 1971, so I was interested to learn that LostCousins member Gwyneth has put together a very useful summary of the pay scales for enumerators, registrars, and superintendent registrars for each of the censuses from 1841-1901. You'll find a PDF version here.
There's also some information in Gwyneth's document about how much the census cost - it was £86,727 18s 8d in 1841 (compared to an estimated £480 million in 2011) - and also the penalties for non-compliance. But best of all is the story about the Scottish schoolmistress who claimed to be 29 years old.....
Tip: if you're a member of the Society of Genealogists don't miss Gwyneth's article about George Rose's Act of 1812 in the latest journal (June 2016).
Save on Ancestry DNA tests ENDS 19TH JUNE
Sunday 19th June is Father's Day in the US, and it's traditionally a time of the year when DNA testing companies offer discounts.
Ancestry are first out of the blocks this year with a £10 discount for UK customers, bringing the price down from £79 to £69 (plus £20 shipping). This is still more expensive than the regular price at Family Tree DNA (the company I've used for myself and my cousins), but you might prefer the way that Ancestry take charge of the matching process. The fact that Ancestry have a much larger database could also work to your advantage, though because most people who have tested are in the US, you're most likely to benefit if you have relatives who migrated to the US in the last couple of centuries.
However, you must be aware that should you cease to be an Ancestry subscriber, you'll no longer be able to view the trees of the people you've been matched with - by contrast Family Tree DNA have no ongoing fees. Furthermore Ancestry currently don't provide any tools, not even a chromosome browser, so you are almost totally reliant on them to decide which of the hundreds or thousands of matches are worth investigating.
On the other hand, whichever company you test with you can upload your test results to the mostly-free GEDmatch site, and you've also got the option of uploading your Ancestry DNA results to Family Tree DNA, where for $39 you'll get full access to your matches and to the tools they offer.
Tip: whichever company you test with, you can support LostCousins by using the relevant link above when you place your order.
In May I explained how you can use the X-DNA results from your Ancestry DNA or Family Finder test to knock down 'brick walls' (you can read the articles again if you follow this link). The chart I provided has proved incredibly useful, not least for me and the cousins I've been matched with through my X-DNA, so I hope you've also found it of benefit.
Note: I am still working on the second chart, for females who have tested - I hope this will be ready in time for the next issue.
What I should have made clearer last month is that to fully investigate your X-DNA matches you need to upload your results to GEDmatch - though, of course, that's something you should be doing anyway, because relying on the basic tools provided by Ancestry and Family Tree DNA is like driving a Ferrari in 1st gear.
To upload your DNA results to GEDmatch (or any other site) you must first download them from Ancestry or Family Tree DNA. This is very easy to do, but if you haven't done it before, this brief guide for Ancestry users will prove invaluable.
First look for the Settings link at the top right of your DNA home page:
When you click the button you'll be taken to the Test Settings page - look for the Download Raw DNA data area on the right:
When you click the button Ancestry will ask you to enter your password: they'll then email you a link that will allow you to download your data. It will be downloaded as a ZIP file, but there's no need to unzip it, as GEDmatch will only accept the data as a ZIP file. (And, by the way, you certainly don't need to understand the data!)
Uploading your results to GEDmatch is easier - simply register or login, then click the AncestryDNA link under File uploads. You'll need to know where the file you downloaded from Ancestry has been saved - usually it will be in the Downloads folder, and the filename will look something like this:
It's more straightforward to download your test results from Family Tree DNA: look for Download raw data in the Family Finder section of myFTDNA; click the link, then choose Build 37 Raw Data Concatenated from the available options.
Why your family tree is like a Patek Philippe watch
I'm sure you're familiar with the long-running advertising campaign which includes the immortal line "You never really own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation".
Have you ever considered that this also applies to our family trees? Enjoyable though our hobby is, if we don't find some way of preserving our research for the benefit of future generations we might as well be solving Sudoku puzzles or crosswords.
Some of us can relax, knowing that our children or grandchildren will continue our work when we are gone. Sadly I'm not in that position - since I don't have any children - and I know that there are many other readers of this newsletter who are uncertain how they can ensure that their efforts can be preserved.
Fortunately there IS a simple answer - we can share our research with our cousins. Not the cousins we grew up with, but the ones we've discovered through our research - our 'lost cousins'. The great thing about discovering new cousins is that when we find them through a family history site like Ancestry, Genes Reunited, or LostCousins we know from the very start that they share our interest in family history.
Of course, sharing our interest isn't the same as sharing our motivation - the chances are that our cousins will, like most researchers, be biased towards their parents' paternal lines, which they may not share with us. But that's not really a problem - in fact, it's this difference in emphasis that means we're able to reap such rich rewards when we do establish contact with 'lost cousins'.
And how should we go about finding those cousins? Some people turn first to the telephone directory and the electoral register, which can be useful sources - but of course, even if our search is successful, there's no guarantee that the cousins we find in this way will share our interest in family history (indeed they very probably won't - though some will know of a mutual cousin who is researching).
No, the best way to find new cousins is through genealogy sites, especially sites which were designed specifically for this purpose, like Genes Reunited and LostCousins. Neither site allows users to publish their trees online - information entered is searchable, but when you find someone who shares your ancestry it's necessary to contact them in order to find out more, which maximises the chance of cousins connecting.
You can use the same approach at Ancestry - by creating or uploading a private tree, and allowing the relatives you've entered to show up in search results. However, more than half of Ancestry trees are public trees, allowing other subscribers to copy the information without ever contacting the tree owners - whether they're cousins or not.
Tip: if you have someone who will be taking over your research 'when the time comes' do please enter their email address on your My Details page - otherwise all the information you've entered could be lost.
Whenever I write about online trees there's always a flurry of correspondence that follows - half from researchers who regret ever publishing their tree online, and half from researchers who wouldn't do it any other way.
When I make a decision I always look at the pros and the cons - which in the case of online trees means balancing the risks against the rewards. All of us have different attitudes towards risk, but there's a big difference between being risk-averse and being risk-aware. If you're risk averse - like me - you'll avoid unnecessary risks, but might take some risks if the potential rewards are sufficiently high.
It's inevitable that some of us will be more risk-averse than others, and I would never attempt to change how someone feels about risk. Instead, my aim in writing about the risks of posting public trees at sites like Ancestry is to ensure that all readers of this newsletter are aware of the risks they are taking when they publish their research online.
Paula, whose unfortunate experience I wrote about in the last issue, is just one of many researchers to have contacted me because their research has been taken and misused. There are just as many people who believe they have benefited from publishing their trees, because of the cousins they've found and the information they've discovered - but most of them have never had a private tree, so I'm not sure that they're in an ideal position to judge which produces the most contacts from cousins.
The two biggest risks of a public tree are these:
For those of us who care about the heritage we're leaving behind, the prospect of our careful research being shoehorned into a tree where it doesn’t belong is - or should be - horrifying. Imagine that you're preparing a dish for the first time, and that you inadvertently turn over two pages in the cookery book instead of one, so that half the ingredients come from a savoury dish and half from a dessert. It would be a recipe for disaster!
Of course, in this example you'd realise your mistake the moment you tasted the food - but things aren't as simple when it comes to family trees, especially when they are very large trees.
Because of the way the Internet works incorrect information can spread like wildfire (rather like Boris Johnson's erroneous assertion that, according to EU rules, bananas can only be sold in bunches of 2 or 3). This is because most people aren't experienced researchers like you and me - they tend to accept things that fit their vision of the world without first checking. For example, if someone new to family history comes across a large tree that includes their grandparents they're likely to assume that the information is correct.
[Both of my grandfathers married twice, in each case after the death of their first wife - but I came across my maternal grandfather on a public tree at Ancestry where he was shown as marrying just once, to a woman I'd never heard of. This error was easy for me to spot, even though there was a 'source' quoted for the marriage, but it clearly wouldn't have been so easy for others - and that's where the danger lies.]
A small proportion of the incorrect trees at Ancestry belong to 'name collectors', people who are more interested in the size of their tree than the quality of the information. By their nature these trees tend to be very large, so whilst they may be small in number they show up frequently in search results - so the erroneous information is very likely to be copied time and time again.
I'm sure that Ancestry would like us all to have public trees - because they certainly go out of their way to push us in that direction. Here's the Search menu:
Some users are inevitably going to assume that it isn't possible to search private trees - because the menu doesn't mention them. But in fact, if you choose Public Member Trees from the menu and carry out your search you'll get a page that looks rather like this:
If you now click the Family Trees link at the left, you'll find out how many private trees have matching entries:
As you can see, in this case there are almost as many private trees as there are public trees. To see the results from private trees just click the Private Member Trees link:
There isn't quite so much detail, but it's obvious that these three trees are well-researched - so you would definitely want to contact the tree owners. When you click the name of a tree you'll find out how many people there are in that tree - though since many people have more than one tree, or keep their main tree offline, you shouldn't assume that a small number necessarily indicates inexperience.
In my view Ancestry shouldn't push their subscribers into making their trees public by making it more difficult than it needs to be to search private trees.
Note: living people are not shown at Ancestry, even if the tree is public - although it's often possible to deduce what the hidden names are by searching the GRO indexes.
There are many people who value their privacy, and wouldn't dream of posting personal information about themselves or their family where everyone can see it. Some of those people are my cousins, and some of them are your cousins - but how could you and I hope to connect with them online given their concerns?
It was because of this conundrum that, when I was inspired to start LostCousins back in 2003, one of my key aims was to design a site where cousins could meet without the privacy of either party being compromised. I'm glad to say to say that it has worked amazingly well: in more than 12 years, during which tens of thousands of members have been matched, nobody has ever complained that their privacy has been breached.
Ancestry have added indexes to over 100 million birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial records from the Netherlands, many of which have previously only been available at the WieWasWie ("Who was Who") website, which is a collaboration between more than 20 Dutch archives. If you find a record of interest you'll have to follow a link to see the image - the images are not hosted at Ancestry.
These links will take you to the relevant search pages:
Review: The British Almshouse
As much a book for local and social historians as for family historians, The British Almshouse (edited by Nigel Goose, Helen Caffrey, and Anne Langley) has 400 pages crammed with information about every aspect of almshouses, from their foundation and funding to their role in society, from their rules and regulations to the clothing and stipends afforded to beneficiaries - and much more besides.
Almshouses were never able to look after more than a small percentage of the poor and infirm, but unlike workhouses, most of which have long since been demolished or turned into hospitals (or apartments), many almshouses survive to this day (although the book only covers the period from 1400-1914). Many of us will have also encountered that fictional establishment, Hiram's Hospital which - though an invention of Anthony Trollope - is thought to have been based by him on St Cross in Winchester. In The Warden we read that whilst the almsmen received just 1s 4d a day (under £25 a year), the Rev Septimus Harding was entitled to the rest of the income, amounting to some £800 a year.
Chapter 16 provides a real-life example: St John's Hospital in Barnard Castle, County Durham reduced the number of almswomen from 3 to 2 in order to increase the stipends to a measly £3 a year, yet the Master, the Rev William Lipscomb - who had no duties to perform, according to the Charity Commissioners - received a total of £461 between 1790-96.
Faced with such a heavyweight work I was initially quite daunted by the prospect of reading and reviewing this book, but once I started I found it quite fascinating. Thoroughly recommended for anyone who, like me, has often wondered about the role of almshouses in British society.
I don't get much chance to read fiction, and when I do it's usually genealogical mysteries - but I greatly enjoyed Ian McEwan's The Children Act, which focuses on a judge in the Family Division of the High Court, and the decisions she has to make, both in her work and her life.
I read the 224 pages in just over a day - I simply couldn't put it down!
Surprisingly nobody mentioned Greyfriars Bobby, the terrier who is said to have stayed by the graveside of his late master in Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, for 14 years until the dog himself died in 1872. Several books and films have been inspired by the story, and there was even a series of comics.
Earlier this month LostCousins member Liz Loveland was in Edinburgh, and she took this photograph of the memorial headstone, which was erected in 1981 by the Dog Aid Society of Scotland, and unveiled by no less a personage than the Duke of Gloucester, a 1st cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
Note the sticks, left for Bobby to fetch by visitors to the cemetery. The inscription reads "Let his loyalty & devotion be a lesson to us all".
Perhaps inevitably it's difficult to draw the line between fact and fiction: if you refer to the Wikipedia entry for Greyfriars Bobby you'll see that there has long been doubt as to the veracity of the story.
Strathclyde University are repeating their highly successful genealogy course at the FutureLearn site - it runs for 6 weeks starting on 18th July. The first presentation attracted an amazing 26,000 people, and whilst it's designed to be accessible by beginners, there are many experienced LostCousins members who found that it offered a useful refresher.
You can find out more here - and it really is free!
Tip: whilst the time commitment is quoted as 4 hours per week, the course materials stay online, so it doesn't matter too much if you fall behind.
The decline and fall of British Home Stores has been in the news recently, for all the wrong reasons, but department stores have been closing for as long as I can remember. When I was a boy, Gamages in Holborn was still a big name, but it closed in the 1970s after the company was taken over by a property developer.
So when I noticed that I could buy a facsimile of Gamages 1914 Catalogue for a few pounds I couldn't resist - and leafing through I was amazed how some of the prices have changed. Obviously prices were far lower in 1914 - on average retail prices have increased by a factor of 87 since then - but some things have gone up far more than others. For example, a reconditioned typewriter would have cost about £12 in 1914, or over £1000 in today's money - goodness knows how much a new one would have cost! Yet a wooden summerhouse on a revolving base was just 10 guineas.
Gamages also had a range of badminton sets from 17s 6d up to £2 5s (for the "GB" Special Association Set) - I bet the quality far exceeded that of the so-called "Professional Badminton Set" I saw on sale at eBay recently for £9.99!
The saying "There's a sucker born every minute" has often been attributed to the showman P T Barnum (though there seems to be no contemporary evidence that he ever said it), and clearly Messrs Harrington & Byrne, self-styled gold and silver experts, reckon that most of them are readers of Saga magazine. In the latest issue they're offering Quarter Sovereigns to commemorate the Queen's 90th birthday - however, only if you look at the (very) small print will you discover that they're issued not by the Royal Mint but by the islands of Tristan da Cunha (total population 271 in 2007).
I've always believed that you should never invest in something you don't understand - which is why I always steered clear of endowments, which always seemed too good to be true (and so it turned out). There's certainly something to be said for playing it safe when you get to my time of life!
This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
That's all for now - I hope you've found something to pique your interest!
© Copyright 2016 Peter Calver
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